UK Release Date: 31st January 2014
Runtime: 121 minutes
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig
Synopsis: A team of Navy SEALs on a mission to find a notorious Taliban leader find themselves being pursued after a life or death decision reveals their position to opposing fighters.
There’s only so far a film can get when its title and poster are both enormous spoilers. As such, Peter Berg’s Afghanistan actioner, based on a true story, is almost completely devoid of tension. However, it remains a well-made film suffering from material that doesn’t feel like it quite works.
A team of Navy SEALs led by Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) are dispatched to perform surveillance on the notorious Taliban leader Ahmed Shah. Communications specialist Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) loses contact with their base and their position is discovered by some local goatherds. Letting their prisoners go, the team find themselves ambushed, with snipers Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and Axe (Ben Foster) the last line of defence.
| "You can die for your country. I’m gonna live for mine. "
There’s a lot to like about Lone Survivor. The cinematography is jaw-droppingly beautiful from start to finish and director Peter Berg (fresh from seafaring stinker Battleship) knows exactly where to put his camera to capture the action when it unfolds. From a technical standpoint, it’s a really solid piece of work.
Unfortunately, amidst all of the glitzy Hollywood gunfire, there’s very little room for the characters of Lone Survivor to shine through. The script consists almost solely of inane platitudes rather than actual development, and it constantly feels like it’s just a case of waiting for the SEALs to be picked off, which is not how such a harrowing real life story should play out.
The cast are talented enough, led by Mark Wahlberg and a surprisingly charismatic Taylor Kitsch. The problem is that they aren’t given any room to flex their acting muscles by the lacklustre script work. There’s no space for character in amongst the gunfire, even as a final montage tries to inject some bizarre patriotism into a tale in which the real hero is an Afghan villager.
| "If this is what happens when God is looking out for us, I’d hate to see him pissed."
Lone Survivor isn’t a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just confused in its own intentions. It isn’t sure whether it wants to wave the flag, Team America style, or showcase the true, grimy reality of war. It isn’t especially successful at either.
Pop or Poop?
Lone Survivor has the DNA of a good film lurking within it, but Peter Berg’s film doesn’t do enough to bring that DNA to the forefront.
The cast all give capable performances and the action scenes are genuinely hard-hitting, but there’s a distinct lack of any real character development.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.