Saturday, January 11

REVIEW: Lone Survivor

Directed by Peter Berg
2013 War Drama
2 hours 1 minute
From Universal Pictures

Mark Wahlberg
Taylor Kitsch
Emile Hirsch
Ben Foster
Eric Bana
Yousuf Azami
Ali Suliman

If there is any doubt that war is hell, see this movie.  The sheer terror of war is in your face for most of the film.  Based on a true story and book by Marcus Luttrell who is part of a four-man Seal team that is sent to Afghanistan to bring down a Taliban leader.  They locate his mountain camp, have him in sight via binoculars and then passing goat herders show how even the most-organized plans can go seriously awry.

There is an unusual humanity not always on focus in war dramas when dealing with the decision on how to handle the three goat herders.  Do they kill them?  Do they tie them up and leave them to the fates?  Or do they allow them to leave unharmed, knowing that their mission will need to be aborted?  All possibilities and the attendant issues are explored.  Humanity wins out but it is certainly not without a cost.

I hope the stunt people were paid handsomely because there were enough rough n' tumble scenes here to last a lifetime.  Ouch, ouch, ouch. 

War films usually don't invest themselves of great characterizations or noble acting.  There's usually not an opportunity to do much of either and there's no exception here.  That is not to say that the four leads were less than completely satisfactory, but the plot is what drives the action and the interest.  In a number of ways it is a little war film.  It's about one action, basically in one location and it takes place over a couple of days.

Most of these men are shot a number of times and before they expire, we are reminded of how terrifying it must all be.  The blood and gore and open wounds are graphically offered.  If I had a complaint, it might be that sometimes it was difficult to know which character we were dealing with.  They all looked the same... same sunglasses, same head gear, same beards.  The bumpy, fast-paced camerawork was not always to my liking either.

Lest you think I am really giving away the ending by saying in the above paragraph, before they expire, let's not forget the title.  It kind of says it all right there, doesn't it?  And whom do you suppose the lone survivor is?

Well, the truth is, you really don't know the ending by anything I've said.  I was totally fascinated by the last 20 minutes and learned a few things about humanity that I was not aware of.

Wahlberg does have a thing for heroic roles.  I'm betting when he played games as a kid, he was the hero.  The fact is he does it quite well.  To his credit, he didn't hog the show, enabling this to be a real macho ensemble piece.  It was great to see Foster (did I just hear he's become engaged to Robin Wright...?!?!) and Hirsch acting together again... so good together in Alpha Dog

Feeling fairly certain this wasn't actually filmed in Afghanistan, I couldn't wait to find out so I rushed home to discover it was... New Mexico.

I might have passed on this film but admit that those pesky previews got me there.  Those previews must have impressed a number of folks, too, because my Friday matinee was packed.

Review of Inside Llewyn Davis

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