Movie review: 'Lone Survivor' pays tribute to martyrs for freedom

For the News-DemocratJanuary 9, 2014 

What It's About

Intense and brimming with realistic combat, "Lone Survivor" is the harrowing account of the doomed "Operation Red Wing" in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. The covert Navy SEAL mission is compromised, and the bloody aftermath leaves all but one dead. The men were assigned to kill or capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd.

Based on the book by Marcus Luttrell, the film depicts the brotherhood that develops among men at war, as well as their strong sense of duty and honor in service to our country. Their tough training shapes them into finely tuned machines with specialized skills, but their bravery and courage comes from within. As written and directed by Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights"), this work honors the selfless acts and moral code of these outstanding soldiers, but also shows the macho camaraderie on military outposts.


This by-the-numbers military procedural is elevated by four actors who excelled at honoring the real men they portrayed. Mark Wahlberg is the medic Luttrell, a natural leader who is thrust into further danger as the last man standing.

Destined for mainstream stardom one of these days, indie darling Ben Foster ("Ain't Them Bodies Saints") is strong as Matthew "Axe" Axelson, a smart guy protective of his comrades, while Taylor Kitsch capably fills the role of young buck Mike Murphy. Emile Hirsch plays well against type as tough Danny Dietz, whose remarkable stamina under great duress stands out.

What Works

With the title and history indicating only one guy lives, you know the outcome already, but the action is riveting, with edge-of-the-seat tension built up.

Earnest in details, Berg makes sure the heroes get their due. The real guys are shown during the end credits, a fitting and sad tribute. Luttrell served as a consultant.

What Doesn't Work

Wounds and bullets tearing into flesh are graphically displayed, and the brutality of the hillside ambush is hard to watch. It is confusing when the villagers help Luttrell because there is limited translation, and figuring out who is "bad" and who is "good" is rough. Berg's style is matter-of-fact, not embellishing the story with fanciful flourishes.

3 stars out of 4

Director: Peter Berg

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Eric Bana

Rated: R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language

Length: 2:01

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