Lone Survivor (2013): Based on the failed June 28, 2005 mission "Operation Red Wings". Four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. Marcus Luttrell was the lone survivor.
Did you see what I did there? I used the title of the movie to describe the movie! That's why it's not a spoiler, plus if you still think it is the first scene after the opening credits tells you that Marcus is the lone survivor, so bite me. It's hard to review this without at least hinting at it, which I why I am saying so right from the beginning. Ok so onto the movie! Can you say Oscar bait? I can say Oscar bait. Sometime soon I'm going to do a brief writing on the Oscar bait movies that come out every year, particularly the war movies that try to take advantage of their subject matter to win awards. My perfect example of this is The Hurt Locker from a few years ago. It paved the trail for all of these movies. Some are good, some are bad. (cough cough Zero Dark Thirty) But this would fall in that former category. It was a good movie. It was brutally realistic, fun to watch, and pretty emotionally gripping. It was well written, well acted, and well directed. But there were definitely a lot of flaws as well.
So let's talk pros. First the acting. Mark Wahlberg puts in yet again another incredible performance. Definitely Oscar-worthy. Though I don't know yet whether he will win it but I fully expect him to be nominated. He is absolutely stunning in the role of Marcus Luttrell, expressing determination and fortitude and really selling his will to survive through the conditions he is thrown into. He had great comedic timing when it was time to throw in joke just to keep the film from being overly serious. But when it was time to be serious, man was I absolutely riveted by the persona Wahlberg created. At the end of the day this was his movie, as virtually every other soldier and villain was interchangeable. The other three members of the team got time to flesh out their characters a bit, particularly Emile Hirsch's (The Girl Next Door's male lead) character, another great actor I might add, but I just couldn't tell any of them apart. Like at the very end of the movie they are showing pictures of all the soldiers that lost their lives in the operation, and I could not even remotely begin to tell any of them apart or ID them until they showed Marcus. Now I was able to identify faces for the four main guys, so there's that. I guess I just didn't connect with anyone other than Marcus to really feel emotionally moved by the end. I know that's a terrible thing to say because these men gave their lives in the line of duty in real life, and every one of them are heroes in my book, but they need a better movie than this one to truly commemorate their ultimate sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. I just could not get myself to be truly moved like I did in a movie like Saving Private Ryan.
Speaking of Saving Private Ryan, another thing that this movie did really well, at least in the first two acts, was portray this situation very realistically. Honestly the war scenes here are some of the best action scenes I've seen since the legendary D-Day scene of Saving Private Ryan. And equally brutal. This movie is not for the feint of heart. There are some very gruesome and cringe worthy moments, like watching someone pull shrapnel out of their leg. And as I said it started out being very realistic. The military jargon was very much in full force here, and the movie did very little to let you catch up and thus at times I just could not understand what they were saying. This may have contributed to my lack of emotion by the end. So the biggest strength was the biggest weakness as well in terms of the realism. Additionally it led to some great moments that built a lot of tension before the initial encounter, as the SEAL team moved very slowly and deliberately, as well as induce the best scene of the movie when they capture two children and their father in the mountains from the town that they were heading towards. Figuring out what to do with their POWs was a very powerful and moving scene. The other thing was that the movie did show signs of Hollywood in the third act, with some in the nick of time rescues that weren't really necessary. But that is a rather trivial complaint. After all every movie has to have some Hollywood in it right?
The Critique: A brutally realistic war movie has Wahlberg at his finest, despite it's many flaws.
The Recommendation: action fans and Wahlberg fans rejoice. This is for you. Everyone else? May be too graphic. Oh and guys, for the love of God, do NOT take your girlfriend to this if she is even remotely squeamish. She will be none too happy with you. You have been warned.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
Oscar Nomination Predictions: Best Actor (Wahlberg), Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Production Design (maybe)
Still stand by this after the rush of the Oscar season. Plus my critiques are rather similar to that of the actual movie critics. You heard it here first!
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