A gutsy, draining and brilliant war movie from Peter Berg, with Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster
Two years after overloading his summer blockbuster Battleship with enough gung-ho patriotism to sink an aircraft carrier, Peter Berg returns to the military for an altogether different kind of film but, in displaying a little more restraint, duly excels.
The brutally efficient Lone Survivor is a based on the true story of a 2005 Navy SEAL operation in northern Afghanistan led by Marcus Luttrell (whose book provided Berg with his inspiration). Luttrell and his team were tasked with assassinating or capturing a notorious Taliban commander, but were confronted mid-op with an ethical decision that threatened to compromise both the mission and their safety, prompting a series of events that led to widespread loss of life and some unexpected acts of heroism.
Mark Wahlberg plays Luttrell, with Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch taking on the roles of the remaining squad members. All four throw themselves into the roles both physically and emotionally effectively conveying the bond of brotherhood between them.
For his part, Berg’s direction is super intense, especially during the prolonged fire-fights in the mountains – sequences which will likely leave viewers feeling as bruised, breathless and scared as the soldiers themselves. Crucially, however, the director doesn’t come over too jingoistic. He pays tribute to the code that exists between the soldiers, but few will emerge from the film thinking that war is a good or glorious thing. Indeed, the film even has time to highlight some of the shortcomings that left the SEALs exposed in terms of both planning and equipment, while nodding towards the crucial involvement of local Afghans in protecting Luttrell at great risk to themselves.
As modern war movies go, Lone Survivor is gutsy, draining and brilliant.