Lone Survivor is Peter Berg’s first directing credit since the abysmal Battleship, released in 2012. Fortunately, Lone Survivor doesn’t share the same rough waters of its predecessor. Berg has managed to create a surprisingly worthy war film that, despite falling short of greatness, still manages to pay respect to those who took part and lost their lives in the real life story on which the film is based.
The film tells the story of Operation Red Wings, a failed US Navy SEALs mission which took place in 2005, and the four man reconnaissance team sent in ahead of the main force. After the team is discovered by a group of civilians who warn the Taliban of the upcoming attack, the squad is forced to abandon its original mission and escape whilst being hunted down by more than 200 enemy insurgents. Although the film struggles through the slower paced first 45 minutes, once the action hits it is relentless and rarely dies down for the remainder of the film’s two hour run time. The action sequences are suburb. They attempt to be as realistic as possible which results in the film being quite unapologetic in its portrayal of violence and the injuries suffered. You really do get the sense that any one of the main characters could die at any point which gives the middle section of the film a vivid sense of tension and momentum. One particular scene in which the SEALs have jump down a steep cliff is particularly memorable, possibly because the stunt performers chose to do the fall for real, resulting in several broken bones and even a punctured lung.
However, Lone Survivor does have several flaws, not least of which is characterisation. The first half hour of the movie is spent trying to establish the characters but by the time the mission begins we know little other than some of them have partners back home and one is getting married. The moral choice whether to kill the civilians or release them and jeopardise the mission also fails to resonate as much as it should have done. The performances too, although none of the bad, are hardly remarkable. The two that stand out, Mark Wahlberg and Eric Bana, only do so because of the stars’ prior fame and reputation.
Despite these failings, Lone Survivor is still a respectable and thought provoking film about the horrors of war which succeeds in its aim of respecting those who were injured and lost their lives on the operation in 2005. The film is ultimately a heartfelt tribute to those in the armed forces and, although it may not be for everyone, it is a must-see for fans of war movies.