Lone Survivor (2013)

lone-survivor-posterWhat do you do when the title of a movie is a spoiler? That’s the question with director Peter Berg’s reverential military action film, Lone Survivor. It’s the true story of a team of Navy Seals who had their mission compromised by a pair of unlucky Afghan goat herders. After deciding to set them free, rather than snuff them out, the Seals retreat to an extraction point, with a hundred Taliban fighters hot on their heels. When the action is firing, Berg is right at home, placing the audience in the middle of a visceral firefight that’s bloody and hardcore and pulse pounding. The rocky terrain of the country is just as deadly as the Taliban, as the Seals bounce around like ragdolls. The performances are all grizzled and finely attuned to keeping the terror of the moment at bay. Ben Foster (The Messenger) is the standout, which is a statement that’s been said with most Foster performances. At the end, I’m left wondering what is the film’s greater message. It’s retelling a military episode few people know about, illuminating the courage and bond between soldiers under fire. But in the end, all of these lives were lost because of one moral though arguably bad decision. Couldn’t they have just tied up the goatherds and gotten a better head’s start? Will the movie convince an audience that those innocent Afghan goatherds should have just been collateral damage? Does the movie critique the futility of America’s ongoing presence in Afghanistan? The futility of war itself? I doubt it, especially with Berg’s fervent appreciation of the armed forces putting their lives on the line (the opening credits themselves glorify the toughness of the Seals while also setting up an explanation why they could survive so many gunshots, injuries, etc.). Lone Survivor isn’t the heedless jingoistic propaganda piece that others critics have feared, but in the end it’s simply a sober and respectful tribute to the fallen, and that’s it. For many, this will be enough. For me, I was thrilled by the heroics but looking for more.

Nate’s Grade: B


About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at PictureShowPundits.com (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on December 31, 2013, in 2013 Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Good review Nate. Berg has never been known to be the most subtle director, but he does very well here in just letting the series of events speak for themselves. As brutal as they may be to watch.

  2. Two quick questions/comments – did the title “Titanic” spoil the ending for you when you saw it? Did you read Lone Survivor? One of the questions you ask in your review is about why they didn’t just tie up the shepherds. In the book they talk about it and realize that the goats showing up untended would send the same message to the village as killing the shepherds would have – that they were missing and in trouble.

    • Hi, thanks for posting. I think more people are aware of the story of the Titanic than what went down in Lone Survivor, so I think the questionable title remains. And no, I haven’t read the book; I’m only judging the movie. If the movie failed to explain itself adequately, that is the fault of the movie. An audience should not be expected to do homework to understand a film. But even if they let the goat go, who’s to say those goats could have found their way exactly down that rocky hill and directly into Taliban camp? And even if that happened, they’d have more of a head’s start.

      I think one of the points of the film is that the “right” choice can often lead to disaster, but there is still merit in making the right choice no matter how hard it is.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: