IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 121 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Based on a failed “Operation Red Wings” mission which takes place on June 28, 2005, a four-man Navy SEALs team – Marcus Luttrell, Michael P. Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz – are sent into the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan to apprehend Taliban commander Ahmad Shah. However, their mission is compromised when they stumble upon local goat herders. Facing a dilemma whether to kill them or to let them go, they choose the latter option – an ill-fated decision that soon costs them dearly.
Because of my hatred of that pointless, illogical, irritating, eye-hurting and headache–inducing disease in modern cinema called shakycam, a hatred becoming so strong that I’m beginning to avoid films I think will contain it [I say think – an increasing number of reviews of films are failing to warn readers if a film has it or not so I’m not always sure], I almost didn’t see Lone Survivor. And boy does it have a lot of shakycam, in fact it’s almost constant for the second half, though it’s quite well done at first. Director Peter Berg does a decent job of conveying the intensity of combat and for a while it’s quite thrilling and not as unwatchable as, say, the last half hour of Jack Ryan, though because the second hour of this film is pretty much all action, it eventually becomes too much and even as I write this short review, I feel a little sick. Given that many people have reported how shakycam makes them feel sick or gives them headaches, I think it’s highly irresponsible of film-makers to use the style so much.
Ignoring that, Lone Survivor is a pretty solid war actioner, though it hardly starts promisingly, with footage of actual Navy SEALs training and then the voice of the Lone Survivor narrating so we know who it is, ruining much of the suspense later. We don’t really get to know the four main characters either, though they’re all well played, with Mark Wahlberg definitely doing one of his acting rather than non-acting performances. The first half is rather tense though and feels very authentic, though I can’t get rid of the idea that the soldiers are being portrayed as rather ill-prepared and stupid, especially during the crucial scene with the goat-herders. The ensuring action does benefit from the use of practical effects – why do people keep using CGI blood when it looks so crap? – and a detailed self-surgery scene may prove to be one of the queeziest of the year. Largely avoiding politics, despite much claiming to the contrary by some lefties who dislike any film which portrays soldiers as heroes – it does over-egg the emotion towards the end, and is no classic of the genre despite what some are saying, but is generally a decent job, gripping and convincing enough to have you on the edge of your seat. If you have no problem with shakycam, it’s probably worth an extra star.