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SUPERB, VISCERAL AND PROFOUNDLY RELEVANT
on December 18, 2013
Brutal and intense, writer-director Peter Berg's superb combat film, based on the vivid New York Times bestselling tale of heroism, takes a look at the 19 American deaths - and lone survivor - of an ill-fated incident in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan.
Bloody and poetic, the incredible true story follows four Navy SEALS on a secret mission to kill a Taliban leader when they stumble across a trio of goat herders. The SEALS choose the difficult decision to release and not kill them. That act of mercy is rewarded by a relentless firestorm from at least forty Taliban fighters who quickly surround the four.
Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) are the brave SEALS. Ben Foster and Eric Bana also star. And they do justice to the real men they play - and honor. Berg's smooth direction captures every horrific moment whether it's a bullet's impact or a treacherous fall. We always have a sense of where we are and the camera movement is not frantic but wide-eyed - it's shot in the same way we remember frightening real-life moments. The editing is tight and the performances never seem anything but real. But in the end, it's the big questions that linger. This ambiguity gives heft to this fine film and raises it to a level of meaningful contemporary art, especially with the ironic and satisfying ending that bookends the act of mercy the men showed to the goat herders.
LONE SURVIVOR ranks with and is, in my opinion, superior to "Platoon," "Battle of Algiers," "Paths of Glory" and the sentimental, boring "Saving Private Ryan" in its visceral and moral intensity. But finally, this brilliant film is about our common humanity and not the the hell of war. Over the end credits, there are photos of the real soldiers who sacrificed their lives for what they believed to be a worthy cause. I wept.