Lone Survivor (2013)

Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster in Lone Survivor (2013)

Lone Survivor desperately wants to be described with clichéd buzzwords like “authentic,” “gritty” and “visceral,” but never earns such descriptors. When its four bearded Navy SEALs find themselves outnumbered by hundreds of Taliban guerrilla fighters, the action sequences’ painful physicality (there’s some bone-crunching stuntwork on display) is squandered by poor directorial choices from Peter Berg. The combination of amplified explosions, smash-zooms and sub-Snyder scenes that sluice in and out of slow-motion produce an effect that’s bombastically inauthentic.

“Lone survivor” Mark Wahlberg demonstrates his limited range as an actor, though I’m don’t know who could make “I need a knife! That’s a fucking duck!” work. The screenplay certainly doesn’t do his co-stars any favours either, saddling them with jingoistic clunkers like, “You can die for your country. I’m going to live for mine.”

It’s not without merit. The achingly implausible setting – New Mexico trying and failing to stand in for Afghanistan – serves as both gorgeous backdrop and effective metaphor, as the men are driven from the verdancy of dense, lust woods into barren wilderness dominated by craggy outcrops of stark alabaster rocks. The soundtrack – from Explosions in the Sky– is overt but effective, combining soaring melancholy guitars with driving, militaristic drums.

2 stars

11 thoughts on “Lone Survivor (2013)

    • I think the way it insisted upon itself, aggressively trying to convince you of how moving a story it was (because it totally is, if you’re talking about the real-life story it tried and failed to capture!) made me dislike more than I otherwise would have.

  1. Good review Dave. The way in which Berg pays more attention to the soldiers, rather than the actual war going on around them, is what really makes this a compelling watch. A bit sentimental, but definitely more emotional than most war flicks I see.

    • Thanks. I agree it’s more sentimental/emotional than most war films, but despite good intentions it came across as false to me. The characters felt like archetypes rather than real people, despite the film’s attempts to humanise them as everyday “good blokes” in the first act. I feel like it got lost between its attempts to depict heroism and the mundanity of war and just came out as an inconsistent mess. Anyway, obviously I liked it a bit less than you 🙂

  2. I didn’t like this either. Since I posted my less than positive review, I’ve incurred the wrath of some people who can’t separate a movie about war from the actual war itself.

    • I can understand that reaction. As I suggested in my reply to jjames above, the film really goes out of its way to embed itself in the real story of these men, but just because their story is moving/heroic it doesn’t mean the film is. It leans too heavily on that crutch and it bothered me, even outside of the film’s apparent limitations.

    • Fair enough – as I said, I liked elements of the film, but on the whole it never cohered for me. I think Wahlberg’s disappointing performance (I’m normally a big fan of him …in the right role) and the aggressive jingoism of the film really put me off.

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