Thursday, January 30, 2014
2013 #3: LONE SURVIVOR
Writer/director Peter Berg officially joins the big leagues with Lone Survivor, a harrowing, gut-wrenching modern combat movie that deserves to sit alongside other anti-war classics such as Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Born on the Fourth of July, and Black Hawk Down. Crafted with stunning technical proficiency, Lone Survivor aims to put you in the middle of a bloody, unrelenting gun battle, never letting up for a breath of air. And what a battle sequence it is. The fluid yet ragged cinematography from Tobias Schliessler is stunning to behold and the crispness of the editing by Colby Parker Jr. smartly establishes concise geography and clear spatial coherence during the protracted battle sequence. Berg, the filmmaker, is as single-minded, determined, and focused in his approach to the story as the soldiers-on-a-mission were that he depicts in their attempt at doing their job and coming out of a terrible situation alive. No matter what or how many creative liberties the filmmakers have taken with the true-story aspects of the incident (a botched mission where four Navy SEALS go up against numerous Taliban soldiers in the unforgiving mountains of Afghanistan), the emotional core of the film is honest and at times overwhelmingly powerful, just like great cinema should always be. It’s no spoiler to reveal that only one SEAL makes it out of the fight alive, and it’s mind-blowing to think that these guys were able to endure what they probably endured during those hellish hours. Berg smartly opens the film with real-world SEAL training footage; by watching just two minutes of these clips it’s easy to see how these guys could become total warriors, able to drop their enemies with precise head-shots, never succumbing to fatigue or lack of food, always ready to fight and kill. Berg wisely celebrates the warrior spirit in all of the men, while never glamourizing the horrific toll that war brings to multiple societies. And most importantly, he never turns the film into a political message or soap-box statement – this is truly “War is Hell Cinema” with a focus on the blood and guts of the situation. Persuasively acted by the grizzled quartet of Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch, this is an unforgettable reminder of what’s been going on for the last 10 years during the war on terror.