Review: Lone Survivor

GRAEME TUCKETT
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014
Lone Survivor

INTENSE: A scene from Lone Survivor.

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REVIEW: Falling somewhere between the exhaustive detail and formidable depth of story-telling that characterised Zero Dark 30, and the usual we're-just-making-this-up-as-we-go-along sensibilities of your average action movie, Lone Survivor is an allegedly accurate account of one mission into Afghanistan that went catastrophically tits-up in 2005. 

Four Navy SEALS were given the task of reconnoitring a village in which a local Taliban commander was supposedly sheltering.

The group were led to believe that there were only a small number of Taliban fighters with him.

But, as is the way of these stories if they are destined to become films, a combination of lousy luck and poor planning lands our four heroes in the middle of an almighty fire-fight.

And I'm afraid the title of the film rather gives away exactly how many, if any, of the SEALS were left at the end of that.

(Hey. Don't go blaming me for the spoiler. I didn't choose the daft name, I'm just pointing out the bleeding obvious.)

In the lead, Mark Wahlberg acts and looks exactly like Matt Damon trying to eat a wasp.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, Wahlberg's hyper-kinetic bunchy little ball of angst is never less than watchable.

Towards the end, he even manages to make being in a coma look exhausting.

Around Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster are all similarly committed and - yes - impressive.

Director Peter Berg (let's remember him here for Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom, and not mention Battleship) draws great work from his cast, keeps his set pieces economical and horribly credible, and still finds the creative spaces to make some very interesting choices of shot and camera placement.

Does it glorify war? Of course. War movies always do. 

Testosterone comes with a side order of self-destructiveness, and even a war movie that ends badly for the marquee names will still have young men queueing up at the recruiting office come Monday morning.

But Lone Survivor's unavoidable jingoism is more than redeemed by a quite stunning reversal of fortunes in the final reel.

A more intelligent question is, is it any good? And to that the answer is a definite yes. Lone Survivor does for soldiers what Friday Night Lights did for footballers: it gives us entry into a near impenetrable world, it makes it credible. 

Lone Survivor is a superior example of a problematic genre.

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- The Dominion Post

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