Lone Survivor (2014)

Lone Survivor (2014)

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If those squirrels made one false move...
If those squirrels made one false move…

Twitter Plot Summary: The story of Marcus Luttrell and his three fellow SEAL’s sent into Afghanistan. The title gives it all away.

Five Point Summary:

1. Brotherhood and all that.
2. Their cover blown.
3. Mountaintop gunfight!
4. Falling down the mountain.
5. Aaaannddd… slightly less interesting.

Before I get into this, can I say first of all that the title is a horrible giveaway in terms of the story. I wasn’t aware of the mission in question before seeing the film, and knowing the fate of everybody else except for Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Luttrell did slightly spoil the narrative. However with that said, as soon as we are introduced to our central four characters at the start of the film, you can tell immediately who isn’t going to make it to the end credits based solely on their interactions with each other and with significant others etc.

We go on a mission with four Navy SEALs, sent behind enemy lines in Afghanistan with the aim of taking out a notorious Taliban leader. Very soon after setting up position on a nearby mountain they are discovered by a trio of Afghani goat herders. Rather than kill them, the SEALs choose to let them go and make their way to an extraction point. Unfortunately for them they are soon tracked by the Taliban forces and they are placed in an epic gunfight which leaves them with two choices – be killed up top or to fling themselves down the side of a mountain. And thus, we follow their attempts to survive as the Taliban forces surround them and the odds of survival diminish with each passing moment.

The main bulk of the film is taken up with the gunfight with the Taliban, and it’s exciting stuff to say the least. The odds are very clearly stacked against the four Americans, yet despite being shot multiple times and constantly bombarded with RPG fire, they continue picking off Taliban soldiers left, right and centre. There may be some incredulity from an audience with regards to how many times these guys get shot and still carry on and yet manage to kill a vast number of Taliban soldiers, however director Peter Berg makes a valid point when stating the SEALs are using high calibre weapons and have had extensive training, whereas the Taliban forces are using AK’s and are almost as bad as the Stormtroopers from Star Wars when it comes to targeting enemies.

The obligatory "men at base stood around looking concerned" scene.
The obligatory “men at base stood around looking concerned” scene.

The underlying themes are ones of brotherhood and not backing down from impossible situations, as witnessed by the SEALs throwing themselves down the mountain. The point is emphasised in the film’s opening moments where we see archive footage of real SEALs training to join the group, and the amount of determination and perseverance needed to get through even the most basic elements of the incredibly rigorous training regime. After going through all of that, jumping down the side of a mountain doesn’t seem quite so bad. Not so much for the audience, the way it’s presented puts us right in the action and you can almost feel every bump and crash as they bounce their way down.

The central quartet of Wahlberg, Kitsch, Hirsch and Foster in my opinion are a perfect representation of brothers in arms, and the bonds between them are clear yet mostly unspoken. I also enjoyed playing a game of “spot the new recruit” based on beard size alone – anyone who’s been in the unit for some time will have an epic beard whereas the newbies barely have stubble. It’s a man’s world out there for sure.

The story stutters in its final 20-30 minutes as the bulk of the fighting comes to an end, but by that point it’s done more than enough to make up for this minor setback. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that final act, but it pales in comparison to the visceral and incredibly tense gunfight that preceded it. This is modern action done well, and Peter Berg can consider himself redeemed after the critical battering he faced for Battleship.

Score: 4/5

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