By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin December 27, 2013 at 2:20AM
It hurts to watch Lone
Survivor…literally. I have never seen a more visceral film about
hand-to-hand combat; I can’t count how many times I winced or jumped while
watching the picture. Director Peter Berg, his actors and stunt team (headed by
Kevin Scott) outdid themselves to bring this gripping story to the screen, and
they have much to be proud of. The reenactment of harrowing real-life events is
as believable as any movie could hope to be, and while the outcome is foretold
by the title, I was still on the edge of my seat.
Mark Wahlberg is a very physical actor and he is well cast as Marcus Luttrell, a Navy SEAL who led a hazardous mission behind enemy lines to kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan in 2005. Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch, and Ben Foster are his comrades on this momentous assignment. After they’re dropped in place by helicopter, it doesn’t take long for things to start going wrong—beginning with phone transmission. When the Americans make a critical decision, choosing to follow the book and do what they believe is the right thing, their fate is sealed. This is war and the rulebooks don’t apply. They find themselves in the middle of a pitched battle, vastly outnumbered.
It’s rare to find an American film about our men in combat that doesn’t take a cheerleading stance. Lone Survivor, adapted by director Berg from Luttrell’s book (written with Patrick Robinson), establishes the mindset of the Navy SEALs, from their brutal training sessions to daily life on call in a war-torn territory. There is even room for humor in these introductory scenes, which evoke the camaraderie of men living on the edge. It also acknowledges the failures of planning and follow-through that put these four SEALs in harm’s way.
There are no false heroics here, only the bravery of men under fire who trust each other with their very lives. The final twist involving Luttrell could only come from a true story, as no one would think to make it up.
Lone Survivor is a tough movie but a rewarding one. It’s humbling to watch this dramatization of the sacrifices these men make, without hesitation. Peter Berg was determined to do justice to them, and he has succeeded.