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Blu-ray Review: ‘Lone Survivor’

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Lone Survivor is one of those movies that easy to overlook. The subject matter is unpleasant and on the surface seems politically divisive. But this is not a film that should be overlooked. It’s an intense, well-made film withLone Survivor cover a great performance by Mark Wahlberg as real-life Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (whose book served as the basis for the production). Based on a true story, this film leaves the politics of the situation out the equation in favor of the visceral experience of SEAL Team 10’s failed mission to take down a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Their gallant efforts are duly honored with one of the most harrowing war films in recent memory.

The film, directed with documentary-style immediacy by Peter Berg, struck a chord with moviegoers, becoming a solid sleeper hit with a $125 million domestic gross. As the title makes clear, only one SEAL emerged alive from the disastrous Operation Red Wings. Though it might initially seem strange to include a “spoiler” in the film’s title, the outcome of the true story is a matter of public record. Lone Survivor isn’t structured as a suspense film, but rather an account of everything that went wrong during the botched operation.

In short, team leader Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), communications specialist Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and snipers Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) and Luttrell (Wahlberg) are sent by Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen (Eric Bana) to take out notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami). While hoping for a relatively quick mission, the team happens upon a small party of goat herders, including two teens. An ethical decision must be made: kill the passersby (who may or may not be innocent civilians) or let them go, which of course would increase their chances of being discovered. After a brief debate (partially centered on the potentially negative media fallout if they kill minors), the team allows the goat herders to go free.

?????????????This decision sets off a chain reaction once local Taliban forces are alerted to the SEAL team’s presence. Before long, the team is under fire. Coupled with communications problems between the Kristensen back at the command base and the sheer number of Taliban soldiers, the four-man team is tragically overpowered and lacking in resources. The bulk of the film depicts, in brutal detail, their efforts to fend off the enemy. Director Berg puts us directly at the center of the action, which is disorienting and realistically assaultive. Each of the men portraying the team members seems to reach a point somewhere beyond acting, their collective exhaustion combining with their will to survive to create a frighteningly realistic experience.

As an audio/visual experience, Lone Survivor really delivers the goods. The 1080p transfer is basically perfect, with extremely fine detail and accurate colors. Every craggy rock and cliff in the New Mexico shooting locations is vividly on display. The grit, grime, and blood caking the actors’ faces are seen in newsreel-realistic detail. Lone Survivor was nominated for Academy Awards for both Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack allows this great work to be heard (and felt, with the gunfire and choppers rumbling from the subwoofer powerfully). Since the bulk of the movie is one long combat sequence, expect the audio to knock you around from every direction.

Over one hour of special features are here in the form of several featurettes. The centerpiece is “Will of the Warrior,” a 28-minute piece that takes a closer look at the life and career of Marcus Luttrell, with plenty of Lone Survivor 3comments from Luttrell himself. In the shorter pieces, we hear from director Berg (“Bringing the Story to Light”), see the lengths the filmmakers went to in order to achieve authenticity (“Recreating the Firefight,” “Learning the Basics”), and learn more about the fallen members of Navy SEAL Team 10. There’s also a short piece, “The Pashtun Code of Life,” that focuses on the Pashtun people of Afghanistan and their code of honor that led to Luttrell’s survival.

One of the best films of 2013, Love Survivor definitely earned the positive reception it received.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.