Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch. Wartime docudrama. Written by Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell, Patrick Robinson. Directed by Peter Berg.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on the failed June 28, 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings,” four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. The story is taken from the book by the lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell.
PREVIEW REVIEW: This past month the biggest contenders for Oscar’s attention flooded movie theaters. Most of these new releases bombarded filmgoers with the excesses I’m surprised didn’t garner them an NC-17. But the content blitzkrieg isn’t over. In fact, the trend towards harsher content may be gearing up, as evidenced by a new war film that would have unnerved George Patton. And while I understand that today’s cinema attendee now demands “realism” in his war movies, I can’t imagine that anyone would think a night out with the Lone Survivor would somehow relieve the stresses of the day. Indeed, because our senses are so badly assaulted by this film experience, I’m not sure you could count this one as entertainment. It’s more like a civic duty.
That said, I find no other complaint with this film other than its visceral excesses. It does give an honest, focused portrait of the U.S. solider.
The story concerns a mission in Afghanistan that went horrifyingly wrong for Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and his fellow SEALs. While it’s not a character study so much as a look at the terror our troops endure when in combat, Lone Survivor does successfully give us a peak into the nature of these rather extraordinary men who protect our freedom and attempt to bring justice to other nations. And although we have to endure 2 ½ hours of armrest-grabbing realism, (it’s as realistic as Hollywood can produce without actually having someone from the wings shooting at the audience), this depiction of wartime combat also incorporates questions of right and wrong soldiers address while preparing for battle. The film’s protagonists face a moral dilemma which will affect their lives. This is so strongly presented in the film that audience members will most likely be haunted with the realization of what our fighting men and women endure.
Pictures such as Lone Survivor remind viewers that are no winners by war’s end. Just those left scared and those left dead. My trouble with Hollywood’s attempt at moralizing within this genre is that those making films about military action generally aim their “war-is-folly” message at those who have answered the call, rather than the villains who started the ruckus. In their defense, there’s not much filmmakers can do about getting the Taliban to view their war-is-not-the-answer movies. But filmmakers sometimes forget that occasionally “there is a time for war.”
As I analyze this motion picture, I keep coming back to its graphicness. If using such explicit language and violent visuals were the exception rather than the rule to movies, it might have an important impact on the viewer. But our entertainment mediums tend to use more graphic content no matter the outlet and no matter the genre. The cinema was once used effectively as an illusionary art form meant to suggest and imply. Those days are gone. Brutal action and profane language is no longer the exception to the rule.
It can be argued that the acceptance of such amounts of crudity and obscenity at the movies is making us a more desensitized people, accepting of more and more visual and verbal abuses. Is all this excess really necessary to state “war is hell”?
I remember seeing a film once where rats were discovered aboard a ship. The captain stopped at an uninhabited island, slathered the mooring ropes with rotted meat and waited until the rats exited the boat, making their way into the island jungle. As the ship sailed off, one of the crew said, “I’d sure hate to come back here in twenty years.” That’s kind of how I feel about what’s happening to our nation thanks to the direction Hollywood is leading the culture. With exceptions, our society has become nearly as crude, hedonistic and lacking in morality as it can become. Imagine what twenty more years will do to it.
Note: Luttrell now runs Lone Survivor Foundation, an organization dedicated to the aid of wounded service members.