“Lone Survivor” is based on the true story, chronicled in a 2007 book, of the Navy SEALS “Operation Red Wings” mission in Afghanistan in 2005. Director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) begins the film by showing us who the “Lone Survivor” is going to be. For those who don’t know any details of this story going in, this decision by Berg undercuts his ability to provide a full level of suspense later on.
However, much like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Captain Phillips”, “Lone Survivor” is more about actual events than the result. Mark Wahlberg gives one of the finest performances of his career as Marcus. He and three other soldiers: Michael (played by “John Carter”‘s Taylor Kitsch), Danny (Emile Hirsch) and “Axe” (Ben Foster) are chosen for the operation to hunt down and kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. Erik (Eric Bana) is their commanding officer.
In the first hour of “Lone Survivor” we get to know these men and others behind the operation, all dedicated to fight for their country and protect the family members they love. And there are a series of strategic scenes in which the mission is planned-out – all work to get us into this story.
When fighting begins about an hour into the movie Berg provides incredibly authentic, graphic combat scenes. Marcus and his “brothers” are out-manned, but they bloodily battle with courage, leading to some very intense and heartbreaking moments. Berg captures every ounce of realism, though the slow-motion falling sequences are unnecessary.
The entire ensemble cast gives moving performances. This is a nice bounce-back for Kitsch, who had a rough 2012 with bombs “John Carter”, “Savages”, and “Battleship” (also directed by Berg). All four of the leads here handle both the intense material from the screenplay and the physical demands of these roles.
“Lone Survivor” is rated R for the strong war violence and language. It’s appropriate for mid-teens and up. Above everything, this is an honorable film. Real footage of the SEAL Team 10 is appropriately used at both the beginning and the end to showcase what these men actually went through and document their strength and courage. The film is not just a tribute piece to these men, but to all the men and women in our military who serve and sacrifice to keep our country safe.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Lone Survivor” gets a B.