Sunday, February 23, 2014

Film Review: Lone Survivor

Copyright: Foresight Unlimited
If you know how the movie ends, does it spoil all the fun? Well, no. A lot of times the movies start from the end of the story and work their way backwards. Lone Survivor is a type of film, which doesn’t regard the intrigue of the end as something really important. The whole plot of a Navy Seal mission in Afghanistan that went from bad to worse is a true historical event and is well-known, even notorious because of the lost American lives (Afghan live were also lost in great numbers, but those guys don’t have Hollywood so screw them).

Peter Berg directed this film in a way that is extra safe. It focuses on the camaraderie and the almost suicidal willingness of the Navy Seals when it comes to following orders. Berg stays away from the question what were those guys even doing in the Afghan mountains, fighting a war against the Taliban. To the soldiers, those enemies could be Martians or the British regulars; it just doesn’t matter, because they have to die.

The film, like its characters, doesn’t ask questions when there is killing to be done. In the sub context, Berg is acted as  an ideal Hollywood soldier for Pentagon; even if he did present a short conversation that occurs when the team encounters civilians and briefly discusses whether should they execute them or leave them to compromise the mission (I bet this was done purely to give the story a little gritty credibility). Matt 'Axe' Axelson, played by Ben Foster, is all about killing them (maybe because he did the same thing before), but the CO decides to let them go.

Of course, Matt is soon proved right and one of the civilians runs to the Taliban HQ to raise the alarm. So kids, when you get the chance to spread the mighty wings of American liberty in some third world country in the coming years, don’t forget to take care of those loose ends by shooting them in the head.

The action parts of the film are gripping and interesting to watch. Of course, every Seal member can take around ten body shots (even one or two head shots) before dying, and every Taliban goes down after maximum of two. I guess this kind of ratio was inevitable because of the opposing strengths – four against at least one hundred means that the Taliban have to do more dying, and the Seals more killing. The thing that impressed me the most was the realistic way of tumbling and falling that the team members experienced while running from the enemy, when I could almost feel the bones crunching. Berg shot and edited these sequences brilliantly.

The last subplot follows the moment when Marcus Luttrell, played by Mark Wahlberg, gets rescued by the local tribesmen who are bound by their ancient law to give him protection, even from the Taliban. This should have been the focus of the film, but Berg probably decided that would be unpatriotic, and instead invested all the energy in telling us how Navy Seals guys are awesome to the max. The bravery of the Afghans who decided to risk their entire village for the protection of an invading army soldier got the backseat in this ride.

Lone Survivor is a slightly more realistic and colorful version of the film Act of Valor. Both glorify the Navy Seal way of making war, and teach us that killing for Uncle Sam and asking questions, don’t mix well together in life and on the big screen.