It was pretty surprising when Universal Pictures announced they would be screening the new Mark Wahlberg film Lone Survivor before press circles’ annual voting—along with a limited opening to secure it as Oscar bait. Judging by the trailer, it just doesn’t seem like the type of movie to generate the type of buzz associated with the coveted awards show. Having seen Peter Berg’s adaptation of Marcus Luttrell’s accounts of his Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan, my mind is completely changed. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to survive the unrelenting brutality of Lone Survivor.
The mission of Lone Survivor was Operation Red Wings, which involved staking out the village where Taliban member Ahmed Shahd (Yousuf Azami) resides and taking him out. HM1 Luttrell (Wahlberg) heads into the Afghani mountainside along with LT Michael P. Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), GM2 Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and ST2 Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) to complete the mission. While waiting for orders, the group encounters three shepherds. Luttrell and Murphy use the rules of engagement to convince Dietz and Axelson to let them go, and sure enough, the three are members of the Taliban, alert the village to the intrusion, and now SEAL Team 10 are on their own for the fight of their lives.
Anyone who doesn’t know how the film is going to end has obviously ignored what the film is called. We are again reminded of how things will sadly end in the very first scene. However, as with all good films, it’s not how it ends, it’s how you get there. For anyone who thought Berg directed Battleship for the paycheck, you’re right. It is known that Berg directed that film in order to bring this harrowing tale of survival to the big screen. It may seem like the set-up takes a little too long to get to the meat of the story, but how else are you going to feel for the troops as they’re hunted through the wilderness? And the two hour runtime flies by.
With cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler, Berg finally delivers a film with action scenes where you can tell what’s going on. Along with an astounding sound effects team and editing by Colby Parker Jr.—not to mention the grisly special effects courtesy of Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero—they turn the soldiers’ slaughter into a two-hour version of the Omaha Beach sequence from Saving Private Ryan. Lone Survivor is packed with amazing action and I won’t be surprised to see it pop up in at least a few categories come Oscar time, even if mostly in the technical categories.
Photo courtesy Universal Pictures