War films walk a thin line of being another action sub genre to propaganda promoting or discouraging the idea of war. The overall picture is what most of these films tend to get across forgetting the hardship endured by soldiers comrade or not are just as painful. “Lone Survivor” premise alone gives it enough ground to break the mold common to war films making it all the more disappointing that it’s just standard action movie.
Lone Survivor follows Marcus Luttrell and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005. Before reaching the fifty-five minute mark the film failure to provide sufficient characterization is it biggest detractor. Simply applying the soldiers were married and had kids doesn’t automatically garner sympathy. We get no background on what each soldier specialize in or their ranking before and during their operation. Most of the dialogue in the first half of the film is military exposition (equipment not working, position of environment, examining battle conditions, you name it) with the occasional conversations relating to the soldiers personal lives. These few non work related conversations is the closest the film comes to making the soldiers appear as friends instead of coworkers. A shame as the film heavily plays on the idea that the soldiers have allot more history together than it actually bother to touch upon. The actual tragedy occurs pass the fifty-five minute mark derailing for a second half more interested in action than its soldiers. For the next thirty-five minutes get ready for a long stretch of action that replaces dialogue for constant gunfire. Structurally the film is fundamentally broken unable to balance story, tone, pacing, and characters in three acts. No matter at which point you skip into the film it’s story is so deadpan that nothing in between really needs your attention. Simple to the point that it doesn’t require much attention even if you sleep to the middle of it you can easily connect the pieces. This film biggest crime is not that it took a true story and turned it into an action film. No, it’s biggest crime is taking a true story and giving it a sense of fiction that tells the audience nothing about the soldiers who lost their lives and making it comes across as a product instead of an inspiring true story about soldiers who died and fought what they strongly believed in.
On the technical side there’s a hardly a thing wrong with “Lone Survivor”. Peter Berg falters when it comes to drama, but when it comes to action he delivers. On his part it was a good decision to make the lengthy battle in the middle of the film. Because of this in real time we get an understanding how dire the situation is for the soldiers fighting and slowly showing the ever growing scars on their bodies. Seeing the battle unfold is unrelenting with seemingly never ending gunfire even if the staging comes off as pure Hollywood given the amount pain the soldiers can take. When it comes to acting the main four which includes Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch are on equal grounds. If not for the poster (but mostly a bad editing decision) you wouldn’t be able to pick out the main character which works for the film intentions. Sadly because of the film shows in the beginning it kinda defeats what the actors did. Although that’s more to blame on Berg bad decision over the actors. The score is memorable reaching all the right notes to add emotions where the script failed to do so.
Lone Survivor ditches the human core of its story becoming a straightforward action movie. It’s structure is a mess with characterization taking a back seat to endless barrages of bullets. The intention to honor the men and their moral code are good, but the delivery of it is not what the story needed. If it weren’t for the fact that “Lone Survivor” was based on a true story this would have been labeled as another typical action movie.