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I was a combat soldier in the Vietnam conflict. The first thing that
comes to my mind watching this film was the equipment used by modern
soldiers. In Vietnam we had the clothes on our back, just underwear and
shirt, pants, boots, and our weapon. Some soldiers wore "flack vests"
but where I served with a small unit in the jungles of the south, I
never saw that. It was just your weapon and the clothes on your back.
As to the story, it raises from the very beginning all sorts of moral
questions. The film opens with actual footage of the over the top
training and stress imposed on elite fighting units such as the Navy
Seals. We see signs right from the beginning of the film that such
severe and brutal training regimens set up a trauma and stress
situation inside the emotions and lives of soldiers. There is a
critical point in the film where the choice to kill "innocent" people
or not to kill them changes everything that happens later. A lot of
people will argue about what the choice should have been, and how it
might have changed the soldiers chances of survival. That moment is a
key to understanding what comes after in the film.
Field Command Incompetence. Another issue defined, if not focused upon directly, is how often the field command, Colonels and up, what are called "field" officers, seem to be incompetent, arrogant and often ineffective. Recent published studies of the history of military service of American Generals, for example, show us that the field commanders of armies on the ground is often a tragic disaster.
Emotions. Like many who watched this film, I found the long combat sequence very riveting and yet repulsive, in that they are hard to watch. There are several sequences that caused me to have a strong emotional reaction and I had a lot of tears on my face by the time it was over. There is a point in the film where we see a photo of the soldier who survived (Whalberg's character) with the Afghanistan man who gave him "hospitality" and saved his life at a great cost to his village. It is very well acted by an very talented Middle eastern actor. It is very easy in this film to become angry about the bad people that are represented by the Taliban fighters. It is easy, honestly, to just become very angry about all Muslims everywhere in a film like this. Suddenly, right in the middle of this intensity of revulsion towards "terrorists" there is an incredible emergence of human dignity, beauty, that lifts the film upwards, that changes the whole narrative of the film from soldiers captured inside a desperate fight to stay alive, toward the greatest attributes of human society; that of respect and refuge, of personal honor and dignity even in the face of the most terrible events.
The film was executive produced by Whalberg, who also stars as the "Lone Survivor", and you can see in his performance and from the credits that roll at the end of the film, that he was very invested in this story. While it is a sort of "classic" Hollywood soldier story, the film has many surprises. It is incredibly effective at showing us, using dramatic events, the stress and trauma a modern soldier fighting the "war on terror" endures over a short period of time in their lives, one that leads to suicides and many other problems for our returning veterans; not to mention the villages and lives changed forever in Afghanistan and the other locations where this kind of warfare continues to this day. I think this film does a much better job at showing this dangerous stress than most other films; but this also makes the film hard to watch. This is a very mature film, very violent. The violence is showed inside of an honest context, but viewers should be prepared for a highly emotional and violent film experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on a true story - that is the most haunting part of this film.
From the title and story itself, audiences already know what the
inevitable ending will be, but through the determination of the four
brothers, you can't help but hope for a change in their fates.
At its core, Lone Survivor is an American war film. The team members are heroes, the Taliban are enemies, and the heroes are able to fight on like in video games or movies. For the opening 40 minutes, it is a somewhat cheesy show of soldiers bravado and training, but it works. Incorporating real footage of the Navy Seals mixed with the actors lets viewers feel for the real life persons and their portrayed characters in the film. Soon after though, they are dropped into enemy territory on an operation to take out a Taliban leader. The mission goes awry when they encounter a small group of locals there, and they are faced with the decision of killing them and letting go. From here, the intensity begins to climb. What is the right thing to do? What would you do? Faced with that moral situation, they decide to cut them loose - soon after, Taliban forces are hot on their tail.
The next 40 minutes or so are an action-packed, non-stop brutal war scene. Tension builds as a scope lines up with an enemy head. The shot is fired, blood flies, and the chase begins. With an abundance of slow- mo shots, clear close-ups of kills and wounds, the excellent direction and cinematography provide a painful journey that makes you cringe or tear up the same as the four soldiers. And all of these men in the film play their roles greatly. Just listing them off - Walhberg tough as usual, Hirsch strong and vulnerable, Kitsch pulling off the difficult decisions as leader, and Foster frighteningly embodying cold but caring.
These forty minutes of intensity must be attributed to the whole team and crew though. Beyond the camera work and editing, much of the scenes work well because of the locations, the costuming, the painful makeup and design for all the wounds, the typical and tacky war-epic music. The writing and delivery of lines keep the pacing quick and engaging.
Regardless of the how the majority of the movie is taken, the conclusion of the film is a nice touch and shows - even with the bloody action and cheesiness - what the film's really about: giving the story of these men who served the country. Lone Survivor, while it can be perceived as more American propaganda, still gives a brutal yet touching look at this journey of four brothers through war. Yes, there were tears. RATING: [8/10]
If there is one thing that this film will accomplish is to make you
feel something. I assure you you will not get bored watching it. Now,
what you will feel will no doubt be up to you.
For myself, I felt mostly rage against a botched mission in an ineffective war. Raytheon should be annoyed that a movie about a mission failed primarily because of communication issues showed their red flashy brand on the comms equipment.
I wanted the characters to succeed, to survive, but I could not ignore the fact that they were soldiers being there only to kill an enemy commander. Having all Americans die in slow motion while scores of Taliban died instantly and kind of stupidly didn't help with the empathy. Also showing pictures of dead soldiers with their families with a pathetic American remake of Bowie's Heroes singing in the background at the end of the movie just fueled more rage. People in the field try to carry out their mission and survive, while their deaths become political and mediatic material. I didn't enjoy that.
On the other hand, the fights were realistic, the subject based on real events and, outside the pathetism described above, I did not detect a bias towards one side or the other. You will witness two hours of low tech war in all of its horror and stupidity. The actors also play well, although I like Mark Wahlberg in almost everything he does.
The story, while showing the preparation, courage and resilience of four soldiers in enemy territory, also showed other things, like the logistical blunders that lead to stupid deaths, over-reliance on technology that doesn't really work as you expect and how choices have consequences on the ground that are beyond the ability of normal courts to understand, whether looking from the legal or moral angle.
I liked a lot about the movie how it made you think long after it was over. What would have happened if they just killed the herders? What would have happened if they tied them up, went a bit down, risked a sniper shot at the enemy commander, then just ran? What would have happened if the Pashtuni would have ignored the wounded American or would have killed the Taliban scout force when they came to them? How would the mission have gone if the four guys would have known from the get go that they would be completely alone, with no support or hope for extraction?
Overall, a very emotional movie, two hours long, that shows more a general type of heroism than one with a specific purpose. Nicely directed and acted. A bit over dramatic, but then that's to be expected. Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really don't wish to offend anyone with this, but whenever you have a
film like "Lone Survivor" that resonates so strongly with the movie
going public, it's easy to be labeled a certain way if you don't follow
the film's attitude. I respect director Peter Berg's intentions; he
wanted to make a film about this group of soldiers performing their
duty, what they are trained to do and what so few are capable of, and
the consequences of that job. However, I feel like real life soldiers
are more humble than this film is subtle.
The film's opening credits feature archive footage of actual Navy SEAL training rituals, which enables the first portion of the film to feel like an extended commercial for the branch, only with movie stars. I wasn't surprised afterward to discover that Berg and his team were given unprecedented access to military resources while making the movie. You have clichéd narration by Mark Wahlberg in the beginning along with some pretty cheesy opening segments that establish our characters. Despite the star power, Ben Foster is the only one that comes off with a lived-in presence, mainly due to his acting ability with not much help from the narrowly minded patriotic script. Once the four man team lands for their mission in the Afghan mountains, the film gets slightly better.
"Lone Survivor" doesn't attempt to answer any big questions, like, what were the soldiers doing there in the first place, or why is the longest war in American history a failure? However, you can't fault the film for this; that is not its aim. Instead, Berg and company boldly attempt to show what it is like to be a Navy SEAL in the field. He creates a visceral portrait that at times really puts you in their shoes and can be hard to watch. There are two separate sequences of the soldiers literally falling off a cliff that made me wince multiple times. But these battle scenes are undermined by too much shaky hand-held camera shots with quick cuts and zooms that can make it hard to understand what's going on.
My biggest problem with the film is the post-rock band Explosions in the Sky doing the musical score. Their instrumental, contemplative and profound music is at odds with the gritty approach the filmmakers take, giving the action a sentimental and over-the-top quality. You only need a few slow motion sequences with their music to understand why people are so taken by the film. Berg used the band to score his 2004 film "Friday Night Lights", which with their score, made high school football look like a matter of life and death. Here, it can almost be played for laughs.
At the end of the day, "Lone Survivor" comes off more like "Act of Valor" in an extended celebration of the branch it depicts, rather than the cold, clinical and procedural approach of a film like "Zero Dark Thirty". The final act of the story is very different from the real life event. My theater erupted in applause when the Taliban villain who loves to behead people gets killed. In real life, there was no such threat on our main character's life once he was taken in by the villagers. With exaggerations like these, and lines like, "You can die for your country, I'm gonna live for mine," the film really doesn't do a good job at being anything other than a feel good and proud patriotic product. And don't get me started on the closing credits, with Peter Gabriel's slow and over-the-top rendition of David Bowie's song "Heroes". Not that there's anything wrong with such a film, but let's not pretend that this is the greatest war film ever made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After viewing Lone Survivor, I was disappointed on many levels. I can
handle a bad movie, we pay $10.75 and hope for the best. Lone Survivor,
however, is propaganda, and I was insulted by the movie's lack of
integrity and general stupidity:
1) Bad guys brandishing weapons traditionally struggle with accuracy in movies. Fine. But these four guys face an onslaught of hundreds of soldiers (many with automatic weapons), fall off multiple steep cliffs, survive direct hits with boulders and trees, yet spring to their feet for another round with the bad guys. Even when struck by bullets, they tough it out and continue to fight on. Look, I have nothing against our Navy Seals and root for them while in battle, but even they must abide by the laws of physics.
2) The underlying message was that our guys are smart and brave, their guys are wicked and stupid. If this were true, the war would have been over ages ago. Incidentally, the makers of the movie were granted full access by the U.S. military.
3) Speaking of which. . .according to the LA Weekly, the producers of Lone Survivor are convicted cocaine dealers and have ties to Russian oil and an alleged contract murder. And while that isn't necessarily an indictment of the movie (for example, I enjoy Polanski movies but realize he's a convicted sex offender) it does give me pause for the movie's motives.
4) The symbolism of the cute little village boy was kind of like, "Oh look, they're not ALL bad. A cute little kid, just like one of ours!"
5) I'm dismayed and frightened to learn how well this movie is faring at the box office. Putting aside its political overtones, this movie is plain lousy: dreadful character development, false New Mexico landscape, overlong and poorly executed battle scenes, and midway through the movie, poof, it gives up on the narrative back at the base.
6) I suspect this movie is for people with yellow "I Support the Troops" bumper stickers. Let's watch our brave boys fight and kick ass, from a safe distance of course. Or hackneyed sports announcers who love to talk about "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." Calling yourself a patriot, while voting for politicians who would deny health care to a soldier suffering PTSD, a lost limb or worse. If you think that's exaggeration, look it up.
7) One star, but only because zero is not allowed. I am heartened so many others also rated the movie poorly. After all, Lone Survivor isn't a Disney fantasy, and we simply would like better screenplays and realism in our movies. I recently viewed Twelve O'Clock High and was extremely impressed by its portrayal of the brave American men who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany in World War 2. Here we are 65 years later. . .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lone Survivor, the movie, is based on a (supposedly) true story. The
source of that story is the book with the same title by Marcus
Luttrell, who was indeed the sole survivor of a four-man SEAL team in
the mountains of Afghanistan. Endorsing this movie requires ignoring
basic military protocols, suspending the laws of physics, and
disregarding the capabilities of the human body. The Devil, as always,
is in the details.
Love of country and reverence for its armed forces runs deep in the United States. This is as it should be, and is unsurprising. We want to believe in the honor, strength and heroism of our men in battle. It is, therefore, relatively easy for a film maker to successfully appeal to our emotions. For example, in the case of this movie, the Director Peter Berg makes it very painful for the viewer to watch as our men are cut down and fighting till the end; the viewer is also inspired. The emotions squeezed from the audience makes almost irrelevant the actor's craft. Instead, we are preoccupied with the images of our bloodied countrymen fighting for their lives.
This movie further muddies the water about the catastrophe that the SEALs brought down on themselves. Now we have to contend with the movie, the book, and military reality. Most of us will have a grossly distorted view of that reality by way of Schwartzenegger-like movies, or this one, Lone Survivor.
In some ways, this movie improves on realism when compared to Mr. Luttrell's book of fantasies. The Director seems to have found Mr. Luttrell's imaginings too hard to accept. For example:
1. MOVIE: When the Afghan goatherds are taken prisoner, the commanding officer (Lt. Murphy) decisively orders that the prisoners not be killed in cold blood, and sets them free.
Mr. Luttrell says in his book that there was a vote taken on whether to kill the prisoners, and the author plays a starring role--as he does throughout his book--in the final vote to release them.
2. MOVIE: The Lt. Murphy character recognizes that their mission has been compromised and so orders his team to move to higher ground and seek extraction ASAP.
Mr. Luttrell says in his book that his team merely moved a few hundred meters, and continued the mission.
3. MOVIE: Jumping over cliffs was kept to a minimum--two, I think.
Mr. Luttrell describes, in his book, jumping over cliffs and down slopes 6, 7, 8, 9 times or more, with nary a broken bone, and an unsecured weapon close at hand.
Unfortunately, the Director chose to accept Mr. Luttrell's wild (and unsupported) claim of 200 enemy soldiers poised to engage the SEALs. In the movie, the SEAL team actually see 200 armed enemy in the village. Mr. Luttrell, in his book, sees 80-100 enemy directly above his position--and notes each enemy soldier's armament; he later just assumes the estimate of 200 in all. Mr. Luttrell has remarkable observational abilities.
The number of enemy is vastly reduced in the SEALs' own commendations. Furthermore, other very respected sources give the number of enemy as 8- 10. The SEALs placed themselves in a textbook, tactically worst-case position. A single enemy rifleman could have been fatal to one or more members of that SEAL team.
The Afghans in this movie are shown as ambulatory targets, without a hint of soldierly virtue. They know nothing of cover, or how to aim a weapon. Yet, they discovered the precise location of the SEALs, maneuvered on them, and caught them flat-footed.
In both the sanitized version (the movie), and in Mr. Luttrell's book, the SEALs' incompetence and disregard for basic military principles is manifest. War is unforgiving, and the SEALs paid the logical price. We should not forget, too, that their failures cost the lives of 16 other American servicemen. Had Lt. Murphy survived, rather than Mr. Luttrell, he should have been court-martialed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have already seen Lone Survivor and it was not to my liking unfortunately. I feel the film is completely absurd with 4 Americans shooting and killing about 100 Taliban who continue to attack in waves and are slaughtered while the Americans spend about half the film rolling down a mountain and slamming into rocks and trees...the film is based on a false premise of killing 3 goat herders or releasing them...the actual answer is you hold on to them until the exact moment you get safely into the rescue copter and then you let them go. If you have to march miles and miles you take the goat herders with you. If you can't march them any further you tie them to a tree. In addition, the 4 Americans hunker down on a mountain top and don't appear to have any clay-more mines with tripwires. These are normally set up around the perimeter of an area where Americans are hunkered down. The Americans also went into a combat mission with crappy phones...since their cellphones suck it makes the rest of their fancy equipment and diagram drawing of targets seem silly and pointless. The dialog in this film is poorly written but the acting in and of itself is decent with the best work done by Ben Foster. Mark Wahlberg plays it straight and does not try and over-act and gives a good performance overall. In this movie, the Taliban are brainless and have no problem with losing dozens of seasoned fighters in order to try and kill 3-4 Americans. This is a film where every single time the Americans fire a bullet there is a Taliban going down in a large blood splatter and it seems like it takes about 300 Taliban bullets to kill a single American. Yeah right. This film is a propaganda recruitment film for the US military which in and of itself is not such a bad thing. To be clear the US military is filled with heroes fighting for America's freedom everyday....but this film is more like a Sgt. Rock comic book....you have been warned...now go see the film and write your own review!
Some have cast doubts on the verisimilitude of parts of this picture.
Of course, those who impugn whether some events really happened or
whether they happened the way they are depicted in the movie neither
underwent the kind of training Navy S.E.A.Ls do nor did they ever find
themselves in circumstances remotely approaching those of the four
comrades. We do not know what punishment the human body is truly
capable of withstanding until we are put to an extreme test, gods
All I can say is that, regardless of whether this movie is accurate 100%, 0% or anything in between, it brought me to tears. I can honestly not remember the last time a Hollywood movie did that.
Very moving, very poignant, very touching. For that alone, as well as for keeping me riveted for the whole of two hours (which is quite a feat given my cynical and jaded nature), it deserves unalloyed plaudits.
You get so many action movies nowadays following familiar formulas that when you watch one of them you know that just when the good guy is about to get overcome by the enemy, the backup arrives and helps him. The formula desensitizes you.
But when a movie is based on a real story, the good guys sometimes do not come. They do not come in an hour; they do not come in a day; and if they come, they are not invincible. Real problems do not follow formulas. Real life is sobering in its beauty and its horror.
Lone Survivor does not have a very original or interesting premise for an action movie. A squad of US navy SEALs is dispatched on an assassination mission. Things do not go as planned.
However, the quality of the cinematography, solid acting and good action is what makes this such a great film.
Out of all the actors getting to play a part not one is bad. Not one fakes it. It feels that everyone is trying to do their best.
The film is also gorgeous. It didn't have to be. It is. The Afghanistan these guys are in is fake because the entire movie was shot in the United States, but it looks authentic and breathtaking.
The action is raw and graphic. Not in a guts-on-the-floor kind of way, but falling-down-a-cliff-side kind of way. Again, you can feel that the people have tried to do a good job. You know how just much they tried? Broken ribs and punctured lungs were involved in the making of this movie.
If there is one problem I have with the film is that it has a self-imposing limit to how big or interesting it can be. It is a story about one military operation and nothing else. No background stories for the characters, no side events, and barely any relationship development. I remember as a kid I was really fascinated by the military ops and wrote a story, as good as I could, about an imaginary mission. Even as I was writing it, I realised that it can never be truly interesting to read because the range of the story is too small. And this film is like that. What's worse, the title of this film gives away the ending. It is basically a giant spoiler.
But it is a testament to the movie's quality that, even though the movie gives almost no background information to the characters, it still managed to really make me care about them. Even with weights on its legs, the film still manages to make such an interesting run.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lone Survivor depicts the failed Operation Red Wings mission in 2005 in which 18 members of the US Armed Forces were killed in action. The film delivers a heavy handed patriotic look inside what happened during those fateful hours. Right off the bat, the film starts with honoring the men and women who serve the United States in the military via a very powerful, if not, melodramatic montage. We then are introduced to Navy SEALs, Marcus, Mike, Axe, and Danny, all played brilliantly by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster. The actors in this film exude the necessary chemistry for the audience to really feel these characters as not just characters in the film, but in real life as well. From Wahlberg to Foster, all four leads play their roles very carefully and it pays off especially when we see each of them in peril. With such a connection made in the first slow building hour, we are then dropped into a forty five minute, pulse pounding shootout between a huge Taliban force and four trained Navy SEALs. As the title suggest, the shootout does not end pretty and never even comes close to sugar coating the brutal nature of war. The entire shootout sequence is filled with hard edged moments of brutality, gore and truly gut wrenching scenes. It is by far one of the most heart racing moments in recent cinema and considering the end results, it is very heart wrenching that by the end of it, you feel as if the wind has been knocked out of you. By the end of the film, Lone Survivor makes you really appreciate the freedom you have, a feat that has not yet been achieved in film up until now. This film is as good as Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan, it is absolutely worth seeing on the big screen and I highly recommend it.
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