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Lone Survivor


Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Ali Suliman, Alexander Ludwig, Yousuf Azami, Sammy Sheik

Director: Peter Berg

Dozens of combat movies such as ‘War Hunt (in which Robert Redford was billed as an actor below director-to-be Sydney Pollack, A Hill in Korea and Pork Chop Hill have focused on the experiences of (relatively) few combatants.

Here screenwriter (from the book “Lone Survivor: An Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10” by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson) and director Peter Berg delivers a consistently gruelling genre piece centred on the hellish experiences of four (all bearded) US Navy SEALS - Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster - when, in 2005, they are dropped by helicopter into mountains in Afghanistan. Their mission is to take out the Al Quaeda commander responsible for the alleged death of 20 US Marines…

Driven by the injunction “Just find an excuse to win”, the SEALS set out to do just that only to come under attack by ruthless Taliban fighters who bloodily remove the majority of the invaders, leading to a ‘surprise’ ending (Lone Survivor is “based on a true story”) that comes straight out of left field…

Lone Survivor scores in several key aspects.

Berg’s fast and furious direction drives the narrative powerfully and pulls few punches (the special make-up effects effects by Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger that create disturbingly realistic wounds are particularly credible), and painful (in several senses) suspense is inexorably racked up.

Wahlberg, Kitsch, Hirsch and Foster are equally convincing (apart from their gleaming movie star teeth) as soldiers facing death without resort to regulation Hollywood-style heroics. Bullets whistle through the trees like swarms of deranged bees and noise, chaos and sudden bloody death ensue.

And Berg and cinematographer Tobias A Schliessler make the most of the New Mexico locations, which stand in effectively for Afghanistan.

(Make no mistake – this testosterone soaked show has hair on its chest: if you see it as a date movie, then I imagine I can reasonably assume your romantic partner is almost certainly a member of the armed forces).

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
121 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 01 Feb 2014