"Lone Survivor" kind of gives away the movie, doesn't it? Maybe a better name would have been "Navy Seals in the Mountains" or "Operation Taliban" or something that doesn't tell us that only one of the four main characters is coming out of the mission alive.
But it's not named that. So we can spend 35 minutes or so learning about the four Navy Seals chosen for a difficult mission in the mountains of Afghanistan. That they are brave, physically fit and committed to each other. They are to take out a Taliban member who is killing U.S. Marines at a frenzied pace. Something goes wrong, only one man comes out.
Here's what the critics are saying:
Up to this point, “Lone Survivor” dangerously resembles a recruitment film, with the jocular camaraderie of the Seals set against their intense training. It feels like a call to arms — until the arms come out. Berg’s depiction of battle carries little glory — just blood, bone-crunching falls and a sense of brotherhood that can’t prevail. It’s hard to be all that you can be when you’re a corpse. In essence, the film admires the team but exposes the game. And the game is ugly indeed. --Tom Long, the Detroit NewsThis is not a film that pretends to investigate the deeper meanings of war, or to analyze geopolitical or cultural issues. A moral choice faced by the SEALs early on is pivotal to the story and resonates in the film's third act, but mostly Lone Survivor is a step-by-fateful-step study of human endurance, of desperation, of resolve, and resignation. Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
Peter Berg’s rousing, shallow, well-made film may be hell to sit through, but it’s part of a long Hollywood tradition of commemorative combat films—soldiers’ stories that grieve for fallen brothers and find hard, simple truths in notions of sacrifice and courage. The problem is that the wars we fight now aren’t simple, and the best recent movies about them aren’t simple either. Berg gives us a movingly bullet-chipped plaque of a drama that’s good as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough anymore. --Ty Burr, the Boston Globe
He’s not preaching to either Republicans or Democrats, although you might guess where he stands on military funding when a character complains that budget cuts mean there are “not enough Apaches” to rescue stranded soldiers. He’s also not trying to second-guess Operation Red Wings, although it seems clear the op needed more planning, better communications and better support from the top military brass. Nor is he out to demonize the Afghan people. He shows how one of them, a villager played by Ali Suliman (The Kingdom), helped prevent this from being a story about zero survivors. Berg is recognizing, and perhaps fully accepting for the first time, that the acrid smoke of war never completely lifts, even when you are staring into the face of your supposed enemy.--Peter Howell, Toronto Star
Yet three things make "Lone Survivor" different from most old war movies, and not for the best. The first is that title. The second is the war itself. Although the Afghanistan war is one that the vast majority of Americans endorsed, it doesn't have the feeling of a great national struggle for survival, like World War II. The third is that the movie is not about citizen soldiers - average guys drafted to do a dirty job that just has to be done. It's about Navy SEALs, which sets up a whole other kind of expectation.--Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
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