Film review: Lone Survivor

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Mark Wahlberg (second from left) stars as a Navy SEAL who becomes the only survivor of a precarious mission in Afghanistan. Mark Wahlberg (second from left) stars as a Navy SEAL who becomes the only survivor of a precarious mission in Afghanistan.

Mark Wahlberg is a bad actor. There are movies when he’s passable (Date Night; Ted), but most of the time he’s inexplicably praised (his wretchedly unbelievable performance in The Departed) or he makes bad movies worse (The Happening; Broken City; The Lovely Bones; I Heart Huckabees).

It’s particularly distressing that he’s no better than usual in Lone Survivor, a worthy story that’s given the jingoism treatment by director Peter Berg, whose last big screen endeavor was Battleship. (It’s been a long time since Friday Night Lights, Pete.)

Based on the true story of Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg), a Navy SEAL who is literally the lone survivor of a mission gone horribly wrong in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor squanders its biggest asset: It has sympathy built into it. No one wants to watch American servicemen get killed in combat, whether they’re on Omaha Beach in World War II, on the front lines in Korea, somewhere deep in Vietnam, or in an Afghan province so tiny it’s not even on the map.

But Lone Survivor is so rah-rah guns and dicks that it forgets to make these guys full-fledged human beings on the screen. Not every military movie needs to fold in PTSD, stop-loss, and traumatic brain injuries, but Lone Survivor thinks hazing and charming small talk make for character. That—along with a lack of context in the screenplay for the military objective, and the movie’s demand for blind audience acceptance—makes the whole thing feel a little too much like church, and the pictures are the last place I want to feel proselytized.

As for plot, Luttrell and fellow SEALs Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Axelson (Ben Foster) get pinned down by Taliban fighters in a remote region after a mission goes badly. While hiding above a mountain village, goat herders—some of whom may be Taliban—wander through the SEALs’ perch.

Murphy, who’s in charge, decides to let the herders go. Before long, one of them is leaping down the mountain—in slow motion, no less—and Taliban fighters are coming from all directions. Luttrell, Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson try to escape, but are soon diving behind rocks, ducking behind trees, and shooting lots of people in the head.

There are plenty of war movies with similarly bald plots, and the battle scenes are compelling. Each time one of the SEALs falls down a rock face, it’s heart stopping (until it’s repeated so often it seems like a gag in an Austin Powers movie). When Axelson dies, it’s particularly heartbreaking because he’s already survived one bullet to the head.

But watching Wahlberg threaten to kill everyone near him with a grenade comes off like sketch comedy, which isn’t Lone Survivor’s purpose. Its purpose is to show that these SEALs died for you. There hasn’t been a movie that preaches this much since The Passion of the Christ.

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Movie houses

Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

  • jeffreyafriedberg

    I suppose pussy b*stards like you have to come up with Something so they can fool others into paying them for their words, words, words…but you fail my Review, you little c*nt.

    • the platypus

      The reviewer told you that the movie is a mindless action flick that is likely to appeal to someone of your intellect. How is that a fail?

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