Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Peter Berg's 'Lone Survivor' Is Harrowing Portrait of Men at War; Wahlberg's Q & A Outburst VIDEO (REVIEW ROUNDUP)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 13, 2013 at 4:28PM

A review and roundup of Peter Berg's "Lone Survivor," which had its world premiere at AFI FEST November 12.
4
'Lone Survivor'
'Lone Survivor'

Universal's indie-financed "Lone Survivor," a tough, unremitting, authentic, and intimate Afghan war film starring Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Eric Bana, had its world premiere at AFI FEST November 12. I have long been a Peter Berg believer. He is a gifted director, who can now be forgiven for "Battleship," a misbegotten Hasbro/Universal concoction that he agreed to do so that he could make "Lone Survivor." When his producing partner Sarah Aubrey insisted that he read the memoir by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell during production on "Hancock," Berg locked himself in a conference room and finished Luttrell's recounting of the failed June 28, 2005 SEAL Team 10 mission "Operation Red Wings" in one sitting. 

Luckily Luttrell liked "The Kingdom" and the two men hit it off. While Universal did agree to distribute the movie, Berg had to raise financing overseas, which wasn't hard with this ensemble. They filmed with constantly moving Red cameras in the mountains of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, standing in for the craggy cliffs of Afghanistan. 

The movie was a bitch to shoot--the four actors playing marooned SEALs on a remote mountain without radio contact go tumbling down rocky cliffs in order to escape a relentless Taliban assault. But it's nothing like what the actual soldiers went through, reminded Wahlberg at the AFI Q & A, where he slammed actors for comparing their jobs to the military--which many of us took to mean Tom Cruise's recent virally reported statements about filming being as tough as fighting in Afghanistan. "For us to talk about what we went through or not is fake and false compared to what these guys went through," said Wahlberg. "Seeing the movie again tonight reminded me of what Marcus went through... For someone to say that my job is as difficult as somebody in the military--how fucking dare you?" (Universal is backtracking, stating that Wahlberg was not referring to Cruise and was unaware of his comments.)

Berg made it clear--and burly Luttrell attested--that the film is as authentic as it could possibly be. Consultants were on hand to verify and insist on accuracy. Luttrell was wary of Hollywood; he didn't want to see his character fall for a village girl, he said. Berg and his actors came through. The movie reminds me of "Restrepo," Sebastian Junger (who was consulted on the film) and the late Tim Hetherington's extraordinary documentary portrait of one troop's experience in Afghanistan. "Lone Survivor" reminds us of the sacrifices these well-trained and brave soldiers and their families make on our behalf in an unforgiving part of the world. 

The filmmakers deserve serious kudos all around. Will Oscar voters agree? It's a competitive year. The directing, photography, editing and stunts are tops, as is Berg's rigorous and lean screenplay. He went to Iraq to observe up close before finishing the script. Critics should help turn this into a must-see. It's getting a qualifying run on December 27 before opening wide in January.

Below, a roundup of first reviews of the film. Watch the trailer here.

Hollywood Reporter:

The recent vogue for extreme solitary survival tales -- Life of Pi, All Is Lost, Gravity -- continues with another significant entry in Lone Survivor. A very intense, close-up visualization of the best-selling memoir about a botched Navy SEALs raid in Afghanistan written by the only man who lived to tell the tale, Marcus Luttrell, Peter Berg's film rates comparisons to Black Hawk Down as an unflinching account of a U.S. military operation in the Middle East gone very wrong. The film is concerned only with what directly confronts the characters -- and, by extension, the audience -- at any given moment. But even without any discernable political tilt in the point of view, other than for a clear enthusiasm for gung ho manliness, no spectator will be able to avoid pondering the question: Is such sacrifice worth it?

The Wrap:

War films don’t all follow the same strategy. Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory,” for instance, depicts a microcosm of society’s worst elements, with the ruling elite watching the carnage from a safe distance, and pinning any and all mistakes on their powerless underlings.

Then you’ve got something like “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which reminds us that there is no glory in war, and no winners either. Battle is ugly, horrifying and dehumanizing, and war itself is a condition that is anathema to the human experience.

To that latter category, add writer-director Peter Berg’s powerful new film “Lone Survivor,” based on the true story of Marcus Luttrell (played here by Mark Wahlberg), who was part of a mission in Afghanistan that went so horribly wrong that…well, let’s just say the title is a spoiler.

Variety:

Leaving the summer-movie frivolity of “Battleship” behind him, writer-director Peter Berg delivers his most serious-minded work to date with “Lone Survivor,” a scorching, often unbearably brutal account of a June 2005 military mission that claimed the lives of 19 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Adapted from the eyewitness narrative of now-retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, this dramatic reconstruction of the ill-fated Operation Red Wings is perhaps the most grueling and sustained American combat picture since “Black Hawk Down,” as well as a prime example of how impressive physical filmmaking can overcome even fundamental deficiencies in script and characterization. Berg’s blunt, pummeling style offers few nuances and makes no apologies, but his broad brushstrokes have clearly found an ideal canvas in this grimly heroic rendering of hell on earth.

The Playlist:

Your average rock, tree, or branch will never appear harmless after “Lone Survivor.” With its depiction of warfare in Afghanistan moved to the unlikely setting of evergreens and jagged cliffs, the most horrific moments of director Peter Berg’s drama come from a body in free fall—and its eventual landing upon each. Never mind the fact that surrounding Taliban forces rain gunfire and RPGs down upon four injured American soldiers out on a recon mission; nature is the true enemy, and the extent of its cruelty is explored to the fullest over the course of the film’s harrowing two hours.

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, Lone Survivor, Peter Berg, AFI Fest, AFI


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.