Lone Survivor (2013)

“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.”

Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster star in Peter Berg’s explosive thriller, based on the true story of four Navy SEALs ambushed by a Taliban force in the mountains of Afghanistan. Berg’s exaggerated but very likeable movie is book-ended by some heavy-handed messages, both on the extremes of SEAL training and the power of mental strength. The film also goes slightly out of its way to defend and pay tribute to those that lost their lives, but fortunately has an undeniably intense and slick way of going about it.

When a film called Lone Survivor opens with Wahlberg being rescued before the expected flashback, you would not be blamed for questioning the film’s basic premise. But as the movie develops, and the physical endurance of the four men is pushed to the limit, you realize that this core element of survival is essential and arguably the whole point of the story. Foster is a great foil for Wahlberg with his brand of intense professionalism in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, there are no real acting nods to deliver towards the Afghanistani contingent, because apart from those that assist Wahlberg, most are simply cannon fodder in some really great video-game inspired fight scenes.

As the four men are brutally and repeatedly wounded during their escape, we are reminded of the almost supernatural ability for trained SEALs to ignore pain and fear, no matter what the cost.  This is especially prevalent when the heroes throw themselves off steep verges and hills several times with no concern for the physical repercussions. This would all normally be too much to stomach, with blood, sweat and tears covering the screen. But instead, Berg intelligently fills the plot and dialogue with almost consistently recognizable war-movie tropes to put a comforting arm around the viewer to help them through.

These cheesy moments are combined with a natural levity between the characters, going some way to dilute some of the more heavy-handed messages and laboured decision-making, which lingers unwanted during some scenes. Lone Survivor can be either loved or hated depending on the disposition of the viewer, but it is a film that deserves much credit for cramming so much, good and bad, into its running time.

Shapstik verdict: By nicely balancing the line between cheesy action flick and hard-hitting drama, Lone Survivor mostly makes up for its slightly predictable nature and subjective viewpoint. Throw in some real directional effort and fantastic cinematic landscape shots, the film may indeed surprise with its appealing blend of entertainment and brutality. 7/10

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