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  Lone Survivor The GetawayBuy this film here.
Year: 2013
Director: Peter Berg
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Yousuf Azami, Ali Suliman, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Rich Ting, Dan Bilzerian, Jerry Ferrara, Rick Vargas, Scott Elrod, Marcus Luttrell
Genre: War, Biopic
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Afghanistan 2005, and Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) has been recovered from a dangerous situation in the mountains and tended to by the medical team in the helicopter escorting him back to the base and safety. As he is flown there, the events of the past three days pass through his mind, he recalls his fallen comrades and what it was like a short time ago when they were at the base, taking the orders for their next mission. This is to capture one of the Taliban leaders who has been responsible fior many American deaths, so it would be some reward to be able to bring him in, therefore Luttrell and his three fellow soldiers are briefed and dispatched by helicopter by night to track this killer down...

Only they don't actually get that far as the whole mission, as one of the SEALs points out, seems to be cursed. Director Peter Berg had been most impressed by the non-fiction book of this story by the actual Luttrell and became convinced it was ideal to bring to the big screen, though when it finally reached cinemas the reaction was mixed; it was a big hit in its native United States, yet everywhere else the reaction was far more guarded, as if wary of the Americans getting super-jingoistic in their justification of the fighting in the Middle East they were intrinsically involved in. This was unfair to a degree, for if there was one message you took away from Lone Survivor it was that not all Afghans want to see Americans dead.

Indeed, many would rather see the Taliban vanquished for what they have done to their country, so the film highlighted these moderates in the framework of a Hollywood war flick. The trouble with that was its essential glamorisation of a series of events that were anything but glamorous, and when you learned the final batle in the village never happened in real life and was introduced to Luttrell's narrative purely for effect, it was too easy to be suspicious and cynical of the rest of it, positive themes and all. It's accurate to say this was not a film for cynics, but as it was depicting an endeavour which pretty much failed, it was also be right to say it was not entirely without humility and perspective - as the title suggests, it wasn't called Lone Survivor for nothing.

Playing Luttrell's fallen comrades were Taylor Kitsch (as Murphy), Emile Hirsch (as Axelson) and Ben Foster (as Dietz), somewhat concealed under their facial hair, and in the early stages making the audience think we were going to watch a Top Gun clone centered around the Navy SEALs what with all the brash, ultra-macho talk that leaves us in little doubt these are incredibly tough guys - Berg's opening titles featured actual SEALs undergoing their gruelling training sessions, and it's little wonder they emerge from those hard as nails. This first act is offputting until you twig they have to play things as bluff and manly as possible to conceal the fact, as we see when they contact them, that they all have loved ones back home they are missing desperately, therefore the arrogant behaviour becomes something of a defence mechanism.

Once they have landed in the region they hope to track down the bad guy in, it's not long before things start to go awry, starting with the goatherds who they encounter in the forest and are forced to tie up to prevent them raising the alarm, believing them to be Taliban members. This brings up the dilemma of what to do with them, basically do they execute these men and boys or do they let them go, with the very pressing fear they will return with armed fighters to see off the Americans? They let them go, but just like in a horror movie when the characters cannot get a signal on their phone, the technology lets the quartet down, leaving the troops back at base wondering not how well things are going, but just how badly they have wound up. Berg put most of his energies into the action scenes, which were kinetic and tense yet also very Hollywood, not so much what you'd expect real life to be like and more what you expect from the movies; there was no denying his technical skill, but if it didn't happen this way why was he telling the story at all? Music by Explosions in the Sky and Steve Jablonsky.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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