365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Lone Survivor (2013)

It took the entire year to find it, but I the last must see movie of 2013 proved to be the most emotional and tear-jerking movie of the year. With apologies to 12 Years A Slave which was very gut-wrenching at times, Lone Survivor is the movie that plays with your heart strings like no other. Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, The Perfect Storm) gives the performance of his lifetime as Marcus Luttrell, the only surviving member of a four person Navy SEALs team on the now infamous failed Operation Red Wings mission of 2005. The covert mission is simple enough. The four SEALs are to find notorious Taliban loyalist Ahmad Shah, a man currently residing in a village of Afghanistan who is responsible for killing 20 US marines a week earlier. Intel has informed him of his location and the team knows what to look for because Shahd has no ear lobes. They are informed of the terrain, the dangers of the mission, and the rules of engagement. The main goal of the mission was for reconnaissance and surveillance of  Shah and then inform the waiting military team, who then had the authorization to launch an air strike on the village to take out Shah and his men.

It should be a simple enough mission, but all goes wrong based on a series of incorrect information and unfortunate circumstances. Shah had many more men with him in the village than they were told. While they were able to identify to Shah, their radio communication went out. And while the team had a clean shot to kill the leader, they knew the Taliban forces would then be able to surround them before they could get to safety. The circumstance that ultimately doomed them though was when a group of three goat herders (a very old man, a very young child, and a man in his late teens/early twenties) happened upon the four SEALS as they were walking up the mountain. This forced the men to make a decision (that is retold in each preview of the movie). They could kill them. They could tie them up (which would probably lead to them freezing to death) or they could let them go. They let them go and before they know it, the Taliban are on their tails and an all out war breaks lose between the 200+ locals and the four soldiers. On top of that, the radio communication is now down so it really is just the members of the team fighting for their lives.

The team of four consists of Hospital Corpsman First Class Luttrell, Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch - John Carter, Battleship), Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew "Axe" Axelson (Ben Foster - 3:10 to Yuma, The Messenger), and Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch - Into the Wild, Lords of Dogstown). They are closer than brothers and the first 15-20 minutes of the film really shows this. I think director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom) understood that importance of establishing comradery between the lead characters. Well it's an action-adventure drama first, it really is a character-driven drama. We get to know each of these four characters deeply (and others as well) and we are genuinely sad when bad things start to happen to them. So much so that the tears either start flowing or we fight as hard as we can to hide them. The movie is that emotional and we are that connected to the story. Never does it feel like you are watching a movie. Never does it feel like there is a director standing there saying things like "Cut", "Action", or "Let's try that again". We are simply a fly on a wall (or a bird on a tree) watching all of the action firsthand. It's an amazing ride that is shot exquisitely on location.

Nominated for two Oscar Awards (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing...what's the difference? I don't know), it could have easily been nominated for many more, including Best Picture. The fact that this movie was not nominated for Best Picture, but a movie like Philomena was, absolutely blows my mind. It's such an honest tribute to these fallen heroes. We get to know the four main characters so intricately that by movie's end we feel such sadness for those who didn't make it as well as their families. Berg did a wonderful job of setting the scene early. For the first 30+ minutes, there are no battles. There isn't much military talk at all. It's all about the dynamics before the four SEALs and the others on base. So by the time the action does start, never do we question (as in many other military movies) who is who. We know these four brothers almost as well as we would know them if they were our brothers.

I recommend this movie for just about everyone. It is fantastic. It will tug at your heartstrings more than any other movie will this year. If military movies aren't your thing, for whatever reason, it might be a tough watch. Also if you are squeamish when it comes to blood and guts, you might struggle. I know that I have heard some people say that they won't watch 127 Hours because of the scene in which Aaron Ralston (James Franco) has to cut off his arm. Despite repeated reaffirmations that the gruesome part is only a few seconds long, some people still won't see this movie. Those viewers probably wouldn't deal well with a couple of the scenes in Lone Survivor.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 9.5/10
Acting 9.5/10
Screenplay 9.5/10
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 10/10 (Oscar nominations for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing)
Hook and Reel 10/10
Universal Relevance 10/10

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