Lone Survivor Review

Reviews Films


Marcus Luttrell and his team from Seal Team 10 set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005. After their mission is compromised Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in what becomes one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

Actor, producer, writer, and director Peter Berg brings Marcus Luttrell’s novel of the same name to life on the big screen in his first directorial project since 2012’s Battleship. Lone Survivor follows a team of Navy Seals on their operation to capture or kill a key Taliban figure in 2005.

The film opens with footage of Navy Seal training sessions that instantly grabs the audience’s attention, with footage of extreme hardship undertaken during the seal training program this opening montage turns out to be just a precursor for the events to unfold on screen over the following two hours.  The training montage is no doubt just a sliver of a window into the seal training program however it’s a fascinating window no matter how small into the intense physical and mental extremes these soldiers are required to endure in order to qualify.

Following an unsettling opening, the film begins to settle into a familiar pattern for an action war film. This first act has been seen several times over as the main players are introduced and we’re given some insights into each of their respective backgrounds and so forth. Unfortunately it feels a little generic early on however there’s the underlying knowledge that these characters are based on real people, this combined with the busy set background brings a sense of authenticity to everything.

Before long that sense of familiarity quickly evaporates as the film wastes little time getting to the main feature of this story which is the combat and the Seal Team’s efforts to survive and escape their situation. The filming of the Seal’s engagement with Taliban soldier’s is superb, Berg creates an intense almost claustrophobic feel to the combat with many close up shops and interesting filming angles around which the action unfolds.

The sense of both professionalism and desperation of the Navy Seals is well captured with high impact and gritty sequences that maintain intensity for long periods of time. The film also makes great use of the environment with some punishing set pieces that are as high impact as the fire fight itself with the audience feeling every knock, cut and bruise inflicted as the team make their way through harsh mountainous terrain.

Not only is this film excellently shot, but the accompanying sound effects are just as good, with rifles, rpg’s, and a variety of helicopters all in use throughout the film the sound mix helps capture the chaos around the characters emphasising the duress under which they are acting.

Performance wise the film rests primarily on the shoulders of Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster. There’s not a huge amount in the script for them to make use of in terms of dialogue etc. What these roles require is more emotive, and physical capability and the four of them deliver this effectively.

The soldiers of the Taliban presented in the film are little more than a wave of relentless and ruthless enemies. Unfortunately for the most part they are virtually designed to just look evil. They’re effective in serving this role for the film however there’s little to no effort made to add any sense of characterisation to their on screen portrayal. Thankfully the final act of Lone Survivor at least manages to weave in some more character driven scenes with people other than Navy Seals which proves to be refreshing.

Lone Survivor is excellent in delivering what it sets out to achieve. It’s highly effective in its use of suspense and brutal action sequences, it holds little back and doesn’t look to weave in any glorification of modern warfare. There’s no sanitised PG level violence to be found here with ample graphic violence on display. The true story context of Lone Survivor adds a sombre tone to the entire film and one that is likely to stay with you after the credits roll, especially in the closing dedication to the soldiers involved.

I’m giving Lone Survivor 7 out of 10 stars, it’s in cinemas around Australia from Thursday 20th February 2014.

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.