Beginning with an excellent montage of the incredible mental and physical requirements needed to pass Navy SEAL training. Peter Berg brings the audience quickly into the difficult world of the Navy SEAL frogmen.
Lone Survivor focuses on the failed Navy SEAL “Red Wings Operation” of June 2005. The plan was to send in a four man Seal team to assassinate Taliban leader Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami) who was known to be using facilities in an Afghanistan village surrounded by mountains, dense forest and rock. The team consisted of Petty Officer Second Class Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster), Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Petty Office Second Class Danny Kietz (Emile Hirsch), and Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg). Within hours of the operation the Navy SEAL team find themselves caught in a harrowing ambush by Shah and his men.
Berg does an excellent job introducing the main characters quickly and giving a sense of their individual back-stories in a concise manner. Within the first half hour the audience is invested in the fate of these men. The screenplay, which is based on Marcus Luttrell’s book, builds a deep relationship between the main characters and does an excellent job of raising the tension throughout the piece despite the fact that the viewer ultimately knows how things are going to end.
Shot mainly with hand held camera, the film gives the viewer the impression that they are embedded within the recon team. The camera follows in close as the team moves across the rugged terrain. Once the action commences it is the technical departments who really takeover and make the film pop. The crackling sounds over the radio airways, the piercing sounds of the gun battles, and the weakening and interrupted breathing of the tired men all linger like a haunting symphony to the ear. The concussion explosions of RPG rocket fire are only outdone by the buzzing of bullets flying back and forth on the battle field. All of this gives Lone Survivor some of the best presentation of crisscrossing bullets on film since Saving Private Ryan.
The cast performs very well in their given roles. Some of the standouts include Taylor Kitsch who, as he has done several films in the past, falls easily into the role of the leader and star of a group. Ben Foster is strong as Matthew Axelson the brave glue of the team who continues to push forward despite being the first wounded. Mark Wahlberg also does a solid job and is extremely believable when the team finds themselves in survival mode.
Lone Survivor is a superior war film. The writing, directing and acting brings the viewer into the world of a Navy SEAL team unlike any other film in the genre. The politics of why they are in the region are not discussed as Peter Berg would rather the focus on how far an individual can push themselves in the face of devastating adversity. Berg gives depth, context and individual personalities to the Navy SEALs which allows him to make the plight of the men resonate with audiences. Lone Survivor is a film I can definitely recommend.