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Rediff.com  » Movies » Review: Lone Survivor is Hollywood's Lakshya

Review: Lone Survivor is Hollywood's Lakshya

February 07, 2014 09:01 IST

Mark Wahlberg in Lone SurvivorLone Survivor not only fails to engage the audience but it also seems conflicted about whether it wishes to honour the immense bravery of four individuals or whether it wishes to prove the US’s decision of interfering in Afghanistan correct, writes Paloma Sharma.


Peter Berg’s latest film Lone Survivor is based on Marcus Luttrell’s ghost written, eponymous memoirs of the same name that chronicle US Navy SEAL Team 10’s journey into the Afghan province of Kunar, where they are to carry out Operation Redwings, which was a mission designed to eliminate the notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. 

Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) is part of a four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team -- the other members of which are Lieutenant Michael P Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster).

Marcus and his team are hiding in the mountains, waiting for a clear shot at Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami) when a group of goat herders discover them -- two boys and an old man. The Marines find a phone with the old man and suspect him, along with the boys, of being Talibani spies. 

While the Rules of Engagement forbid them from killing unarmed civilians without proof of their complicity, letting them go might mean risking the success of a mission that will forever put to rest a merciless man who is responsible for the death of at least 20 US Marines. 

As far as being a war film goes, Lone Survivor proves to be more war and less film.

Berg’s glorified version of war worships machismo and puts blood-soaked sacrifice up on a high pedestal. Lone Survivor looks at the US’s involvement in the Afghan civil war from a perspective so narrow that you’d think it was a propaganda film from the George W Bush camp. 

The politics of the film aside, it seems that Berg’s idea of an action sequence is limited to Taliban mujahideen falling back after taking a single shot in the head and the Marines tumbling down ravines, bullets grazing their limbs and their faces being torn open. 

Lone Survivor will surely be remembered for its bone-crunching, blood soaked scenes of war and it is here that Berg excels. He makes you feel the impact of every single bullet and piece of shrapnel that tears open a piece of human flesh and he does it so much, so often that you become immune to violence. 

You stop wincing after the first few times. 

It just doesn’t matter to you anymore. 

As Carl Denham said in King Kong (2005), 'There is still some mystery left in this world, and we can all have a piece of it for the price of an admission ticket.'

Unfortunately, even though you may pay for an admission ticket, you will find very little mystery here. 

Lone Survivor’s title pretty much gives away what the film is about and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one will survive. (Hint: read the opening credits, one of the producers and lead actors have the same name). 

Despite some fairly amazing performances by the leads, not only does Lone Survivor fail to engage the audience but it also seems conflicted about whether it wishes to honour the immense bravery of four individuals or whether it wishes to prove the US’s decision of interfering in Afghanistan correct.

Lone Survivor is no Saving Private Ryan. It chooses to concentrate on gore rather than on bringing any depth to the story. The characters are 2D individuals. Nobody bothered to portray each soldier as an individual and instead, chose to lump them up as a group. Their stories are pretty much uniform -- loving family men, on the job, away from home, will do anything to protect their country.

That Berg decides to spend a whole of about 10-15 minutes in the beginning showing footage from the Navy training sessions and a discussion among the group about marriage and home, is quite generous of him. A majority of this 121 minute yawn-worthy saga centres around the four men hiking up mountains, hiding and blowing holes in the enemy’s heads.

It becomes quite difficult to connect with the characters or even feel the slightest touch of emotion for them.

Why Berg chose to make a film about one in a hundred more strategically important battles of a war that is not doing America any good, I will never figure out. It will take a particular fetish for war to be able to sit through Lone Survivor. You will find yourself struggling to make it to the interval.

Lone Survivor is Hollywood’s Lakshya -- except, without the spunk, the entertainment factor and Hrithik Roshan.

This is not a film.

This is a test;

And of all the people I sat in the theatre with, I think I have emerged the lone survivor. 

Rediff Rating: 

Paloma Sharma in Mumbai