'Survivor' a true story, plus lots of Hollywood
A grim chapter in Navy SEALs history earns a heroic, no-punches-pulled accounting in “Lone Survivor,” an above-average action outing for Mark Wahlberg & Co.
Based on the true story of the ill-fated SEAL Team 10 and a mission that went messy in 2005, it is still very much a movie. A few scenes, a few sentiments and the tone seem inspired by the John Wayne flag-waver “The Green Berets,” another film about another battle in another war (Vietnam), but also one where victory is spun out of something that looked nothing like victory at the time.
Wahlberg, Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”), Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter,” “Battleship”) and Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) are SEALs dropped off in Afghanistan to kill a Taliban leader. “Rules of engagement” are debated and are blamed for things going wrong. It's the mountains, so communications are poor. And one bad thing leads to another as this intrepid team tries to shoot its way through every AK-47-toting Taliban between there and rescue.
Writer-director Peter Berg, recovering from “Battleship,” frames his film within the culture of these fighting men, opening with real scenes of the brutal training (and wash-out rituals) of the SEALs.
Their code is in the clipped, hard language exchanged between officers (Eric Bana is in charge of the mission) and the men who do the dirty work.
“Moderation's for cowards.” “Never shoot a large-caliber man with a small-caliber bullet.” “You're never out of the fight.”
The “helluva big gunfight” that breaks out as their mission unravels is shot in extreme close-ups, bursts of blood squirting up through the dust, gurgling, sucking wounds and the ringing, temporary deafness of a round that explodes too close to your head. Much of this stuff is excruciatingly real.
If nothing else, Berg forces us to appreciate the code these men live by and the toughness that is beaten into them, toughness that keeps them going as the wounds pile up even as they dole out kill-shots by the score on their numberless foes.
But the saga takes many a melodramatic turn as team is whittled down and rescue becomes more remote as a possibility. The third act where the film's “true story” origins start to beggar belief in the worst John Wayne movie fashion. Fact-based or not, events turn cinematically familiar and far-fetched.
“Lone Survivor” — yeah, the title gives too much away — contains some of the most brutally vivid combat footage ever filmed. The characters are only superficially sketched in, but we still fear for them, understand their code and above all else, appreciate the dirty, bloody, high-risk work these professionals do. That they go through all this and risk everything, by choice, is something Berg — to his credit — never lets us forget.
Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: ‘Game Stands Tall’ is ‘Friday Night Lite’
- Review: Young love lives or dies with one decision in ‘If I Stay’
- Review: ‘Island of Lemurs’ is the perfect IMAX nature film
- ‘Calvary’ a meditation of sin and redemption
- Review: Despite sameness, ‘Sin City’ sequel a slice of nihilistic noir