"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
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.