Lone Survivor (2013)

Directed by Peter Berg

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Lone Survivor is an assault on your senses.  It’s gritty, romantic, larger than life and frames its central four characters like they are Greek gods.  Berg clearly looks up to the marines, and everything he does glorifies their brotherhood, loyalty and sacrifice, in a way that almost fetishizes it.

It’s a strange watch.  The film is passionately made, but so much of the story feels cliché.  It’s the white protagonists against a group of Taliban soldiers who greatly outnumber them and don’t have any redeemable qualities.  Now that’s not to say they should or could be presented in any other light given the subject material, but any conflict that is this black and white will feel to some degree like propaganda.

It’s occasionally rousing but more often you can feel effort put forward into each ‘heroic’ moment, especially the ones shot in slow motion, and it’s this sudden artifice which only further emphasizes the degree to which we are being told what to feel.

And yet moments are effective and intriguing.  The three out of the far who don’t make it all die in vastly different ways.  For one we see through his eyes the last thing he sees before he’s killed, another is riddled with bullets in one of those heroic slow motion shots (that felt a bit over the top), and another is killed in a rather quiet moment that is all the more disturbing because of how much of the style is removed from the moment, so it plays as if we just happened to be standing there when it happened, with no prism through which to view this.

It’s almost experimental in that way, kinetic and overflowing with passion.  None of this feels lazy, even if the narrative feels a little too simplistic.  But if that’s the true story then what are you going to do?

It’s certainly harrowing, but I’m not sure if that’s not just there effect of the true story, not of the way it’s captured.  There is something about the violence here that feels all too electric, like no matter how horrific the experience and the end result we’re still meant to get all jazzed up by the gunfire.

The focus of the film is the bond between these characters, and yet most of the time after the first act (in which we actually get to see them bond) is spent behind muzzle flashes and a barrage of bullet squibs.  In those moments it’s not much different than any other patriotic, kind of discomforting war movie.

But it’s visceral and tense, the acting is good, and it’s better that there’s too much passion involved than not enough.  Despite all that the best scene in the film might just be the opening montage of soldiers in training, the real pain and pride etched on their faces.

Up Next: Jerichow (2008), Pain and Glory (2019), Transsiberian (2008)

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