‘Lone Survivor’ Over-worked by Director Peter Berg

by Trey Hock on January 10, 2014

in Print Reviews,Reviews

If you want to know what we mean when we at Scene-Stealers refer to overly sentimental or over-worked films, Peter Berg will illustrate in his new movie, Lone Survivor.

The true story that inspired Lone Survivor is both harrowing and amazing. Four Seal Team 10 members scout a Taliban camp looking for a treacherous leader.

As the Seals are doing their reconnaissance, four local goatherders stumble across the men. These Navy Seals are now in an ethical quandary that could also dictate whether they live or die.

If the Seals let the herders go, they could face an entire stronghold of Taliban soldiers storming up the mountainside to kill them. If they kill the goatherds, the Seals are going against the rules of engagement and committing unsanctioned murder. The decision these Seal Team 10 members face is impossible.

All Peter Berg has to do is tell the story simply. The compelling questions and drama are already present. There is no need for overt cinematic embellishment.

But what should we really expect from the director that brought you Hancock and Battleship?

Lone Survivor is full of slow-motion gun fights, compressed sound design that accentuates “thoughtful” moments, and a huge cinematic score that swells to cue the viewers’ emotional response. These elements were a huge disappointment, since the story at the core of Lone Survivor comes through in spite of Berg’s direction.

The performances from Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz, and Ben Foster as Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson are not big emotional stretches for men who can play manly men.

That said each actor does a great job showing the emotional depth of these characters. To continue the Scene-Stealers Ben Foster love fest, I will say that he gives perhaps the most complex and emotionally engaging performance of the four.

Before the film’s conclusion and because this real life story is anything but cut and dry, we do get significant nuance in the way we look at everyday Afghans, but I wish that this moment was given more time instead of feeling rushed. The vulnerability of Marcus as he relies on Afghans who he does not know is tense and incredible.

Ultimately, Lone Survivor is a disappointing film based on an incredible true story. I just wished that the adaptation came closer to doing the real life event some justice.

In addition to contributing to Scene-Stealers, Trey makes short films and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute. Follow him here:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Alan Rapp January 10, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I won’t quibble with you on this one. I gave it a marginal pass for the performances and the action sequences which made me wince (for their brutality not their badness) more than once as characters kept diving off cliffs and hit every bump on the rocky slope downward.


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