Reviewed By

Lee Trotman
"Lone Survivor" is based on a true story (a claim made before the movie starts), and I like to see this upfront with any movie because my expectations are altered.  Unlike "American Hustle", which claimed upfront that "some of these events actually happened", when a claim is made based on a true story, I hold it accountable to a higher standard.  Lone Survivor did not disappoint, so I didn't do my usual fact-finding after the movie was over: I believed that the events had happened, and probably happened more times than we civilians would know.

It is the story of Navy Seals on a mission to kill an Al Queda leader, led by Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg).  As they are observing Ahmad Shahd's activities, Afghan civilians (children and an old man) stumble upon them hidden in the forest.  Luttrell's team captures them and then if faced with the decision of what to do with them; all options are fraught with moral issues.  If they let them escape back to the village, the Seal team will surely be hunted down and killed by Shahd's squad, which numbers nearly 200 to their handful.  If they kill the civilians, they are violating international rules of war, and could face prison in Fort Leavenworth.  After some fairly intense debate, they decide to take their chances by escaping while the civilians warn the village.

Most of the movie is comprised of firefights and battle scenes.  Up close, the battle scenes seem very realistic.  But from afar, the Seal team's injuries seem almost cliché, especially when they tumble down hard terrain like boulders for what seems like
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hours, with only cuts and bruises.  And the dramatic scenes were also in slow motion, with the music swelling in the background majestically.  It is an odd mix of slick film-making and great production values, but I think that any tale based on a true story is better served with documentary-style camera work, like shaky handhelds shooting grainy video.

And this might be the problem with the movie.  I couldn't get over the feeling that I was watching a movie.  "Full Metal Jacket" is on cable quite regularly, and whenever I watch it, I don't ever think "that's Matthew Modine."  But I couldn't help but think "that's Mark Wahlberg" in every scene he is in, and the movie didn't have that "camera just happening to pick up the action feel." 

Overall, the movie was engaging enough, and the story compelling, especially at the end where they explain the actions of the Afghan villagers that came to Luttrell's rescue.  The photos of the real Seals during the credits roll was also stirring.  I think this is what restored my feeling of "true story", because they were reminders that these soldiers were real people that made the right moral decision, knowing it would cost them their lives.  Not many people would have come to that conclusion, so I give Lone Survivor an 83 out of 100.
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