It is a fine balancing act for any war film between overt-patriotism and stark realism. One can trump the other as you want the best representation for people who sacrificed for their country, particularly if the story you are telling is based on a true story. Lone Survivor managed that balancing act very well, treading the fine line between showing the soldiers as flawed heroes while still representing the full horrors of combat.
This begins with the fantastic cast who bring the real-life story to the screen. Mark Wahlberg is director Peter Berg’s MVP, so he features as the titular soldier. Joining him is Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster, while Eric Bana plays the commander back at base. It is pretty clear the key four actors went through training to prepare for the role because their camaraderie is clear and they have the realistic feel of four soldiers who have seen the worst war can offer.
The film manages to spend some time with the recruits, getting to know them and what their hopes and plans are for getting home. It is pretty stock story-telling for any war movie tinged with impending doom but there is a reason it is used and it is implemented effectively here. It also helps that the cast is so watchable.
As much time is spent bringing the character to life that when the core of the story hits, you get a jolt of tension that never relents. What starts as a dilemma becomes something much more terrifying very quickly and the film is never less than gripping as the events play-out. There are lots of hold-your-breath moments and other key scenes where you wonder how you would cope and how realistic the events on-screen actually are.
This is coupled with the brutal realism. These soldiers were injured and were caught in a desperate situation. Lone Survivor doesn’t shy away from showing how devastating this was as each solder becomes physically affected by what is occurring. It brings home the events so clearly and ensures that you are never taken away from what happened to these men.
It is the sort of movie which will have you reading about the real events once the credits roll. You will want to know more about the characters and how accurate some key events actually are. You may also find yourself wanting to join the US Marines but this is because Lone Survivor does, at times, fall into the trap of being propaganda for the US military but some of this was to be expected.
Overall, Lone Survivor benefits from a gripping story, brought to life by an effective cast telling a tale which never shies away from the brutal realism of war. You’ll be hooked by the movie and intrigued by the real-life events.
Rating – 4
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