Wednesday 5 February 2014

Review: Lone Survivor

World of Blackout Film Review

Lone Survivor Poster

Lone Survivor (SPOILERS*1)
Cert: 15 / 121 mins / Dir. Peter Berg
WoB Rating: 4/7

First things first, Universal, you've called the film "Lone Survivor", and put a picture of Mark Wahlberg on the poster. That's not exactly awash with ambiguity, is it? There are few things which drain the suspense of a film like "waiting for The Other Ones to die", and Peter Berg's latest true-story drama waves that flag with apparently little self-awareness.

The film seems torn between wanting to be a heartfelt account of loyalty and brotherhood, and an action flick in which people get shot graphically in the head and neck. I'm not sure if you can do both, but this film doesn' t really manage it either way. An opening sequence of camcordered Navy Seal training footage leads us into the reconstructed drama where Mr Wahlberg leads a cast of actors who all look remarkably similar*2 when they're wearing camouflage, sunglasses and scraggly beards. I found the opening act is reminiscent of Zero Dark Thirty, and with all the same accessibility issues, but once the four-man-team heads into the Afghan wilderness, it almost - almost - becomes great.

The quiet moments of the film are the most human, and the most well executed. The tension is undeniable as the squad lies in the undergrowth, waiting to find out if their position has been compromised. Once things inevitably go south (remember the title, remember the poster), a gun-battle and chase ensues which puts The Expendables to shame. All well and good in its place, but the camera which Tobias Schliessler used to capture some stunning (if Bay-esque) sunrises earlier in the film, seems gleefully intent on showing us Some Bullets Going In™, and it gets to the point where it begins to feel a little flag-waving, despite the third act restoring the balance somewhat.

The performances are all earnest and admirable, and I don't doubt the intentions of the cast and crew for a second. I just get the feeling that they're trying to spin too many plates at once. Ultimately, the film had spent the best part of two hours convincing me that Seal Team 10 were dedicated, loyal, determined, and human; so playing a string-quartet version of Bowie's Heroes over an extended photo-montage of the actual team seemed a little more mawkish than sincere. There's a more engaging film to be made out of this story.

Your mileage will vary.

Less 'hearts and minds' and more 'preaching to the choir', Lone Survivor feels like a great film trying to burst out of a dramatised reconstruction.

FYI, Mr Berg, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive…

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not as much as I'd have liked.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
For me, not nearly enough.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
It's big, and loud enough for a trip to the flicks if that floats your boat.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't. And obviously I understand why there isn't, but at the same time, this is the perfect film for one.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Am I the only one who was reminded of the Battlefront levels of Endor, Mos Eisley and Yavin IV during this?
Don't answer that; I know I am.

*1 Well, I say 'spoilers', it's essentially the film poster which has done that already. Although I've probably spoiled it in some other way, too.
*2 Seriously, someone tell the casting director and wardrobe department to have a word with each other. Unless, of course, the makers of the film are implying that soldiers are "basically all the same", which would be a surprising subtext, to say the least.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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