"So if you're feeling froggy, then you better jump, because this frogman's been there, done that and is going back for more."
Lone Survivor caught me completely by surprise considering I wasn't expecting much from director, Peter Berg, whose films I tend to dislike quite a bit. "From the director of Battleship and Hancock" isn't exactly great marketing campaign for a film. This personal and passionate project of Berg's ended up being by far his best work to date. Saying that this was the best war movie of the year is also an understatement considering I really can't recall another one, but I can tell you that despite having its flaws some of the action scenes do recall moments from Saving Private Ryan (and that is very high praise for a war film considering I'm not really the biggest fan of this genre). I tend to get tired with overlong firefight action scenes, but it wasn't the case with Lone Survivor. These scenes felt real and gruesome while building a lot of tension. Not once during the two hours did I feel like the film was dragging. The pacing of this film was solid. Berg actually did his homework here and having spent a month based with an actual SEAL team payed off because the screenplay felt believable. Ultimately the film is about brotherhood and fighting for survival, and that is accomplished very well by Berg who decided to make a narrow minded and focused movie instead of a large scale war film.
Lone Survivor is based on a true story that took place in Afghanistan in 2005 involving a SEAL team's mission to kill a Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah. Berg adapted the screenplay from Marcus Luttrell's book of the same name. Lutrell (played by Mark Wahlberg) was one of the four SEAL members involved in the mission "Operation Red Wings" taking place in the Afghan region. The others were Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster). Their mission becomes compromised when a group of goat herders run into their hideout in the Hindu Kush region and the four have to make a quick ethical decision. They can either kill them or they can let them go knowing that they will warn the villagers of their presence. Despite knowing the risks involved they decide to let the herders go and quickly try to reach a better location to communicate back to their base before the Taliban catches up with them. It's not long until they are surrounded by enemy forces and are forced to fight for survival despite being heavily outnumbered.
Despite knowing where the film is heading (considering the title gives away the story), it still maintains the audience's interest and build tension really well. The performances from Wahlberg, Foster, Kitsch, and Hirsch are all pretty solid and they each bring some unique trait to their characters. We sympathize with these characters and understand the quick moral decisions they have to make considering their lives are on the line. In a way Berg is trying to pay some sort of tribute to these soldiers who put their lives on the line every day and makes us appreciate the risky work they do even more. Perhaps many people found this film a bit heavy handed in that it does try to deliver a patriotic and courageous message about macho soldiers, but I didn't have an issue with that because at the same time Berg is also portraying the ugliness of the battlefield. Perhaps the easiest moment to pinpoint this film as military propaganda is the opening SEAL's training montage, but I thought it worked to help set the characters better and in a way sort of pay homage to these soldiers.