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Lone Survivor - Review

Lone Survivor

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

PETER Berg, much maligned for his blockbuster failure Battleship, rebuilds his reputation with Lone Survivor, one of the most brutally compelling war movies of recent times.

Inspired by the true story of an ill-fated mission by a four-strong team of Navy SEALs to kill or capture a notorious high-ranking Taliban member in northern Afghanistan, this honours the bravery and loyalty of the men involved without ever coming close to feeling celebratory or jingoistic.

Yes, the film unfolds almost solely from the SEALs’ point of view and reduces ‘the enemy’ to bullet fodder.

But Berg has clearly set out to place viewers in the middle of their predicament, bringing you as close to the action – via bone-crunching stunts and head-spinning sound effects – as is humanly possible.

And in doing so, he also raises valid questions about how US troops are resourced (or not, given equipment failures), while paying equal tribute to the bravery and heroism of the Afghan soldiers who ultimately played the biggest role in keeping the sole survivor of the film’s title alive.

Under-pinning everything, meanwhile, are the moral and ethical decisions facing every soldier as the fate of the mission and its men ultimately rested upon a chance encounter in the mountains between the SEALs and a family of local goat-herders.

Praise must also go to the central players for delivering career-best performances. Mark Wahlberg is great as Marcus Luttrell, the SEAL leader whose subsequent book provided Berg with most of the ammunition for his screenplay. But so too are Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch as, respectively, Michael Murphy, Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson and Danny Dietz.

All display the camaraderie and brotherly bonds that undoubtedly exist between these soldiers, while also tapping into the complexity of emotions that result from the ever worsening state of their mission… and the growing sense that they are fighting impossible odds.

Physically, too, they are put through the mill with Berg – and the film’s stunt team – delivering one or two jaw-dropping moments that serve to show just how punishing life can be, as well as how conditioned these men must be to survive or die trying.

Lone Survivor is therefore an utterly gripping, brutally intense, quietly moving and even thought-provoking experience that offers the most gut-wrenching insight into modern combat since Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 121minutes
UK Release Date: January 31, 2014