Saturday, February 8, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor was written and directed by Peter Berg. It's based on the 2007 book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson, which tells the true life story of Luttrell's harrowing mission during the War in Afganistan.

Director Peter Berg also helmed last year's Battleship! You know, the movie based on the board game. Actually it's not all that hard to believe. As ridiculous as that film was, it was very much a love letter to the Navy and military in general. It's not such a stretch to imagine Berg  directing a straight, serious war story. In fact he actually began producing Lone Survivor back in 2008, years before he made Battleship.

Although the film opened nationwide on January 10, 2014, it had a limited release on December 25, 2013 (!). Just the kind of feel-good film  the whole family would enjoy on a Christmas day!

The Plot:
The film tells the story of Operation Red Wing, a disastrous 2005 Navy Seal mission to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah during the War in Afghanistan. The mission was comproimised by a run-n with locals and only one member of the team survive

Thoughts:
• I don't have a lot to say about this film, so I'll keep it short.

• "Lone Survivor" may be the worst, most spoilerific title ever. It all but shouts on a bullhorn that only one person's going to come out of this alive, and Mark Wahlberg's mug is plastered all over the poster, so it's not very difficult to figure out what happens.

• My main beef with the film: it's in such a rush to get to the "good stuff" that it doesn't spend much time letting us get to know the characters. Yes, they all have little quirks and talk about their wives and girlfriends back in the world, but ultimately they're all ciphers, coming off as little more than video game characters.

Because the characters are little more than sketches, we don't feel their injuries and deaths the way we should. Seems like a bit more setup and introduction was in order.

• The amount of damage these Seals take during the course of the film is nothing short of astonishing. Each one is shot multiple times and at one point they all fall down a steep mountain range, slamming against rocks and boulders with enough force to break them in half. They then shake it off and go back to soldiering. I know Seals are tough, but... 

Apparently the injuries were all based on reality though, as director Peter Berg studied the autopsy reports of the fallen soldiers to make sure their wounds were true to life. Gruesome!

• As is typical of "true life stories," a lot of the plot is total fabrication. There's considerable disagreement as to how many Taliban were surrounding the Seals, with some reports saying there were 25 or so, and others saying there were 200 (!!!). Luttrell also didn't witness the rescue copter being shot down. Nor did he go into cardiac arrest and "die" for a few seconds after being rescued, as shown in the film.

Such changes are par for the course whenever a movie's based on a real event, so it doesn't bother me too awful much. I get that some things have to be changed for dramatic purposes.

What I don't get though is that some of the real life events were more impressive than what was shown in the film. In the movie, once Luttrell is the "lone survivor" of his team, he limps several miles to an Afghan settlement, where he's nursed back to health by a friendly villager. In reality Luttrell's injuries were so severe that he couldn't walk, and he crawled seven miles to the settlement! Why the hell would they change something impressive like that? Were they afraid the audience would find it unbelievable?

Lone Survivor is a brutal and unrelenting war film that unfortunately doesn't let us get to know its characters well enough to properly care for them. I give it a B-.

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