Lone Survivor movie poster
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Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor movie poster

Lone Survivor Movie Review

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The Afghanistan war meets The Rundown in Lone Survivor, an intense, brutal action-thriller based on the true story of four American soldiers who find themselves on the run from a horde of Taliban fighters. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lone Survivor is a gripping film - but not as emotionally powerful as it should have been.

Peter Berg wastes no time getting to the action, as the four soldiers - played by Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster - are soon under attack in a mountainous region of Afghanistan. The action doesn't let up until the film's final minutes, meaning that Lone Survivor features nearly two hours of nonstop action.

And as an action movie, Lone Survivor is really good. If nothing else, Berg is a more than capable action director and he does not shy away from anything. Every gunshot, scrape, scream and fall hits home painfully hard. The falling especially... half the movie seems to be about the four men leaping, flipping and crashing over cliffs to flee the Taliban. Every time their bodies hit a rock, tree or whatever else may be in their way, you'll feel it. After a while, and after all the falling became rather ridiculous, I consciously thought about how Lone Survivor was awfully similar to The Rundown - the painfully fun action-comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Seann William Scott - completely forgetting that Peter Berg was the director of The Rundown.

Wahlberg, Kitsch, Hirsch and Foster all deliver fine performances in their respective roles, though that primarily means they do a good job crying, screaming and shouting at one another. It's clear that Wahlberg was angling for some award attention with his performance here, but Berg never gives him the opportunity to really flex his acting muscles.

Lone Survivor is a really good action film - it is intense and at times painful to watch - but as a war movie, it's nothing special. For whatever reason the movie doesn't resonate on an emotional level, and it is emotional complexity that separates great war movies from the rest. Berg's strength has always been action; offering substance beyond action has been his weakness. Lone Survivor is his best movie in this regard, but it is by no means a masterpiece.

Some of you will disagree, which is understandable, even justified. The movie is about real men who died and Berg holds no punches when showing their deaths. Furthermore, the opening and closing sequences - using documented footage of the soldiers whose lives were lost during Operation Red Wings - will pull at the heartstrings of many viewers. I'd argue that these scenes, especially the closing montage, have been inserted to make up for the actual film's emotional shallowness. But again, some of you will disagree.

Lone Survivor is one of the most intense action movies of the year, but despite its depiction of a tragic true life story, it has no lasting effect.  You'll walk out of the theater saying, "that was good," but when asked several years from now about the best war movies ever made, or even the best war movies made over the last two decades, Lone Survivor won't be among them.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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