Lone Survivor
dir-scr Peter Berg
prd Sarah Aubrey, Randall Emmett, Akiva Goldsman, Norton Herrick, Stephen Levinson, Barry Spikings, Mark Wahlberg
with Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Jerry Ferrara, Dan Bilzerian, Yousuf Azami, Sammy Sheik, Ali Suliman, Rohan Chand
release US 27.Dec.13, UK 31.Jan.14
13/US 2h08
Lone Survivor
Into the woods: Kitsch, Wahlberg, Foster and Hirsch

bana ludwig ferrara
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Lone Survivor Even if the heroics of the true story have clearly been ramped up, this military action thriller is unusually involving due to its jagged structure and hectic energy. Yes, the title gives away the ending, but it also provides an ironic counterpoint to a riveting film about battlefield camaraderie.

In 2005 Afghanistan, a team of Navy Seals prepares to head into the mountains and find a notorious Taliban leader (Azami). Marcus (Wahlberg) takes Mike, Matt and Danny (Kitsch, Foster and Hirsch) as his teammates, while their commander Erik (Bana) and rookie Seal Shane (Ludwig) offer support back at the base. But after locating their target, their position is compromised by a group of innocent goatherds. And deciding what to do with them will change the shape of the next few fateful days.

The film opens on the gruelling Navy Seal training programme, which seems designed to create machines rather than mere soldiers. This cleverly establishes the earthy, realistic tone, and it prepares us for the physical intensity that follows. These extraordinary men rely on their resilience, endurance and brotherhood. So writer-director Berg turns them into patriotic superheroes.

This is a problem for the movie as a whole, because when an American dies on-screen it's noble and brave; but when an Afghan dies it's anonymous and deserved. Thankfully, the entire film doesn't strike that lopsided tone. Contrasting Azami's brutal leader and his even more vicious henchman (Shrik), there is an entire Afghan village that risks its life to rescue an injured American. And this is the aspect of the film that lingers in the memory far stronger than the manly heroics.

Performances are strong across the board, with stand-out work from Foster and Hirsch, who bring intriguing subtlety opposite the solid, more overtly macho Wahlberg and Kitsch. And Ludwig finds some terrific notes in his scenes as well. As the mission progresses, the story is packed with heart-stopping scenes of violence and emotion. Essentially this is about a group of men who decided to do the right thing, then paid the ultimate price. As everything falls apart, they keep shouting "This sucks!" at each other. We can't help but agree, even as we admire their inspiring strength and tenacity.

cert 15 themes, language, strong violence 30.Nov.13

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