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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lone Survivor

There is not much of a storyline to Lone Survivor directed by Peter Berg. Just based on the title alone, we are already fully aware of the film’s ending. A Four man team goes into battle. Three of them die. Only One survives.

The pre-action first act is pretty weak. It’s the same old ultra-patriotic, Navy Seal prestige banter complete with a rookie giving a front-of-the-class speech defining his role as a Seal Diver. In the mission briefing the target Afghans are portrayed as cliché plot devices. Never is there a mention that these Afghan’s are actual humans whose country the Seals are currently occupying, and are currently planning to kill. Scenes like these are not usually later redeemed, but as soon as the four Seals drop into the field, the tone of the film changes.

What makes the film Lone Survivor a good film is 100% in its execution. The performances of all the actors, the special effects and stunts, the lighting and the sound, the fancy camera work and exotic scenery, the violence,  equal the actual enactment: a very powerful, non-partisan, grim portrayal of modern ground combat.

Once dropped in the field, the Seals encounter innocent civilians. Faced with the ethical decision of whether to execute them or free them, the Seals let them go. This is truly a controversial choice. Acting differently surely would have produced a different, less deadly outcome (for the Seals at least). Any logical viewer will afterwards struggle to justify why the Seals made the choice they did. Why would they sacrifice themselves for the innocents? It is almost nonsense, but in war decisions are made on the fly, and this is what happened.

Within minutes the freed civilians alert the troops, and an army of hundreds of heavily armed men surround the group of 4. This when the action starts.

It begins with the exchange of long-range rifle fire but soon the Seals are surrounded and flanked fiercely. As the battle shifts positions we encounter scenes where Seals must make split second decisions between particularly gruesome tasks. Which is less likely to kill me? Pushing forward and engaging in fire where I am extremely outnumbered, or throwing myself down this 50 foot rock face?
The unfolding of this battle, and that is to say two-thirds of the film, really cannot be described in words. The battle truly is the film. It is an attempt at the depicting the intensity of real combat, and myself having zero experience in real combat, I think Peter Berg is very successful in portraying it.

Their radio signals having been lost, their back-up firepower having failed them, and every other piece of bad luck imaginable having occurred, the battle ends. The Seals literally having fought to their deaths.