Full disclosure, I'm a tad biased for this film. My good friend Dave is the cousin-in-law of a girl named Cindy Axelson. Cindy is the widow of Matt Axelson, who is one of the four soldiers this movie is based on. By me saying she's the widow isn't a spoiler considering the title is The LONE Survivor. I've met her a few times and she's a lovely woman who's insanely strong considering what she's been through. For her sake, I hoped, as I sat in the theater before the movie began, that this was going to be a good film. It's what is deserved considering what these guys went through. When the movie ended and everyone wiped tears from their eyes and clapped, I was thrilled to say that it was one of the greatest war films ever made.
There is no doubt that director Peter Berg has total admiration for the military. But when I saw that he was the one to take on this story I was very nervous. Sure, he's done great movies like The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights and my guilty pleasure Very Bad Things; but he's also had horrendous bombs like Battleship, Hancock and The Rundown. The former actor is kind of like a subdued Michael Bay with a slightly less raging ego. His films have style and skill but also teeter on silly and can easily wobble off kilter. The Lone Survivor was a passion project of his though and he also wrote the script based on the book by the lone survivor himself, Marcus Luttrell. That attachment drips from every frame because this is Berg's finest film.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Luttrell and gives one of the most intense performances of his rather limited yet still impressive career. He's joined by Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and the every present but no one knows why Taylor Kitsch. Kitsch is a good actor but he seems to be box office poison. He starred in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Battleship and the epic failure John Carter. Each was worse than the last but I'm happy that Berg gave him another chance in this because he plays the calm and collected commander very well.
The true story is about a 2009 mission in Afghanistan where four Navy Seals were trapped by the Taliban and fought harder than anyone can imagine to stay alive. The survival story of Luttrell is so emotional that the jaded side of me believed it was mostly made up so Hollywood can push the perfect story on us but it's all true and it's even supported by photos of the actual people at the end of the film. I won't give anything away but it's easy to think this is pro-America propaganda that makes you despise all the people of Afghanistan but you'll see that that's not the case and that some of those people are more amazing and braver than most Americans. The story makes you cheer for humanity, not hate it. Because of that, you can sense that this is a war film that can be taken in by even those who are passionately anti-war.
The Lone Survivor is two-hours-long and goes by at the blink of an eye. Once the action starts, it doesn't stop for a single second which makes the intensity even more powerful. It's a situation that seems impossible to get through as a viewer which makes you unable to fathom how the actual soldiers felt. I know that Berg flew Cindy out for the premiere and she's seen the film. How she was able to watch it is something I'll never be able to comprehend but for the rest of us it should be essential viewing. If you support our involvement over there, it makes you respect the men and women who fight no matter what and understand why they do. If you don't support our involvement there, it has the exact same effect. A very impressive accomplishment and not something that many war films have pulled off.
Gavin's Giveaway this week is Elysium on DVD! CLICK HERE to enter to win!