Movies based on true-life events can sometimes be anti-climactic. This is especially true for against-the-odds type stories. Simple research would reveal the outcome of such occurrences with a conclusion never in doubt. Making these films engaging is how it reaches its known ending. Lone Survivor is one such work. An arresting survival-of-the-fittest tale, the heroism involved against harsh adversity makes this factual piece consistently compelling.
Sent on a mission to eradicate a high-ranking al Qaeda operative, four Navy SEALs have their work cut-out. Led by Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), their determination to find their prey quickly becomes endangered. Caught in an ambush, they attempt to evade capture within Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. Banding together to face a common enemy the SEALs struggle to find the strength to escape their captors and complete the mission.
Lone Survivor maintains its often unbearable tension until the end. It’s a credit to Peter Berg’s direction given the story is one seen dozens of times. Making it stand-out are the cast and the avoidance of dry academic story-telling bogging down similar works. This is a muscular, fast-paced production full of grit and unafraid in showing the bloody consequences of battle.
Another important part of Lone Survivor is its objectivity. Refusing to be a simple ‘us vs them’ tale, it reveals how supposed enemies can also be unwitting allies. This aspect provides an interesting layer amongst the gripping cat-and-mouse chase through the unforgiving Afghan mountains. The performers are put through the ringer in these sequences, with Wahlberg providing the right degree of conviction for his role.
Far from glorifying war, Lone Survivor unflinchingly uncovers some of war’s harshest and cruellest elements. The bond the soldiers share is easily seen with the ravages of combat failing to obliterate their connection.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 8
Lone Survivor opens 20 February 2014