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Based on the failed mission "Operation Red Wings" which tasked four members of SEAL Team 10 on June 28, 2005 to kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.
For more about Lone Survivor and the Lone Survivor Blu-ray release, see Lone Survivor Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 30, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Alexander Ludwig, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana
» See full cast & crew
Lone Survivor Blu-ray Review
One of the best of its kind.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 30, 2014
Cinema is at its best when reality is recreated not simply for entertainment's sake but to say something, to be something beyond images on celluloid or, now, digital drives, to recreate a moment in time not because promised box office receipts says it should be but because history demands it be and the future needs it to be. The best of the cinematic medium builds before the audience's eyes and gradually flows through its heart, settles in its stomach, and seeps into its soul. It doesn't just show when and where and who, but why: why does it matter, why should people care, why does the story deserve to be remembered in perpetuity for all to see, to know, to feel, to understand, to experience, to never forget. The best of cinema transcends the medium and blurs the line between fiction and reality, allowing the audience to experience firsthand pain and hardship and joy and release, to learn from it all, and to appreciate those who lived and died through it all. Director Peter Berg's (The Kingdom) Lone Survivor is all of this, purposeful moviemaking created not to entertain but rather to bring its audience closer to a moment in time, to experience firsthand life's true pains and hardships but to also feel its joys and experience the release of its emotions, to not simply know what happened but feel what happened across the entire spectrum of highs and lows. The movie is as much a celebration of life as it is a depiction of death, a commanding and powerful and challenging yet respectful recreation of modern warfare and, more important, of the men who gave all they had not because of an order from on high but because of duty to and love for one another, for everyone who would one day know their story, who would weep for them, who would move forward after them, and who would work towards building a world in which their sacrifices fall not vain but in which their sacrifices are the last that need be made.
Four U.S. Navy SEALs -- Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matt Axelson (Ben Foster), and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) -- form the core team charged with capturing a Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah. They locate the man but also discover a sizable support force with him. When the team's position is compromised by the coincidental arrival of several goat herders, the men are forced to choose between killing them or releasing them. The order is given to free them, and the men retreat further back from their objective. Radio contact is spotty at best in the mountainous terrain, leaving them little choice but to escape on foot. The enemy quickly overtakes and overpowers them, leaving them to fight a desperate running gun battle from which it will be nearly impossible to escape alive.
Lone Survivor is certainly a wild ride of energy and overloaded with testosterone on a purely exterior level, appearing to be nothing but blood and guts and gunfire at the point where the audience only peeks in, only sees what's happening rather than feels what's happening and understands what's happening. It's in the connections the film makes with the audience and the bridges into its world that it constructs, both of which run metaphorically deeper than bullets and bombs and blood, where the film truly starts to shine. It pulls the audience onto that mountain, into that barrage of gunfire, through all of that blood, and into the very essence of the bonds that keep the men together, the roots of which are born and bred in individual souls but carried on the backs of all. The burden of sacrifice and the burning of wounds are both shared by all four men. The live collectively, they fight collectively, and they die collectively. Marcus' end-film voiceover in which he speaks of his figurative death on the mountain embodies the entire film, carries its message both within the story and through the audience, elevates it beyond mere gunplay-as-entertainment and solidifies the film beyond even a human interest story or tale of survival against the odds but into something much greater and more important: a story of brotherhood, of perseverance, of hope, of understanding what it means to live for something and to die for something greater than the individual, something the SEALs understand and something that even some of the Afghans understand and, through the film's lifeblood and the sacrifices of the men depicted in it, something the audience will understand, should it look beyond the superficial.
Certainly, that superficial is an important part of the experience, one in which the ideas are born and through which the purpose takes shape. Director Peter Berg holds absolutely nothing back from a visual perspective. He never creates superheroes out of the men, despite the sheer amount of damage inflected upon them. Almost from the first shots in the firefight they're depicted as weary and slowed, bloody and broken, standing more on courage and purpose than on working feet and legs. They are portrayed heroically but realistically. The film never goes into machismo territory, never portrays its characters as anything less than human and terribly frail. They hurt, they bleed, they feel; all the training they've endured, all the mental conditioning they've taken in carries them as far as human endurance fueled by adrenaline, pushed forward by that training, and supported by an unbreakable will allows, and no further. Technically, the film is beautifully put together. Its action scenes feel authentic in delivery, and the realism with which the men fight and operate, down to the finest details on weapons operations and combat tactics, enhances the action in a way that throwaway Action films that create de facto Terminators out of their characters could never understand. The audience will almost literally feel every hit, each bullet that barely misses, each explosion that's inches away from disaster. It's as intimately and painstakingly crafted as Saving Private Ryan and one of the most realistically brutal depictions of war most will ever experience in motion pictures.
Lone Survivor Blu-ray, Video Quality
Lone Survivor looks magnificent on Blu-ray. Keen observers will note a hint of banding in a shot or two, but that shouldn't detract from what is an otherwise immaculately detailed and colored transfer. The HD digital photography shows just how far that medium has come. While it doesn't display the same sort of organic feel as film, it comes very close thanks to the richness in clarity and precision detail with which it captures the largest and smallest textures alike. The Afghanistan terrain (shot in New Mexico) springs to life with every pebble, rock, branch, and leaf presented with textures so tactile and complex that viewers will all but reach out and feel the different surfaces. Likewise, uniform details are incredible, from frays around the edge of the boonie hats to the heavier textures on patches and combat gear. Wear on weapons and the cracking, thinning paint jobs give a beautifully authentic appearance. Facial details are incredibly lifelike, down to the finest facial hair, bead of sweat, and in the film's second half, splatters of blood and open wounds. Colors are gorgeous. Bright green vegetation nicely stands apart from earthy terrain and gray rock formations. Red blood is vivid, just as it's once described in the film. Skin tones appear accurate throughout, and black levels raise no alarms. This is a beautiful image all around, reference quality material from start to finish.
Lone Survivor Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As one might expect of a fresh-from-theaters film with scenes of intense military action, Lone Survivor's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack delivers. This is an incredible listen, particularly once the action gets going midway through. Prior to that, however, the track springs to life with full and detailed musical delivery. It enjoys a robust but balanced presentation, supported by a generous but not overextended low and surround envelopment. Ambient effects around the base are frequent and authentic, effectively placing the listener in the busy, oftentimes loud landscape. Minor exterior ambience dots several scenes prior to the eruption of gunfire. During the extended firefight, the stage springs to terrifyingly intense life as bullets fly all through the listening area, impacting both flesh and rocky surfaces with regularity. Rocket propelled grenades whoosh through and, after a deep, penetrating explosion, send debris flying through every corner of the listening area. Screams and crashes and collapses and other general sounds of combat mayhem help build up every moment. Support effects are terrific, too, particularly helicopter rotors that heavily slice through the air, heard both from the outside and the inside of the bird. Dialogue is even and center-balanced, whether hushed whispers along the way or frantic screams -- the latter often overpowering even gunfire -- in the second half. All in all, this is a marvelous, reference quality listen from Universal.
Lone Survivor Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Lone Survivor contains a few terrific supplements, several moments in which are just as powerful as, if not more so than, the film.
Lone Survivor Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Lone Survivor is one of the most emotionally draining films in recent memory, and there could be no higher praise. Even as the title gives away the ending, the film's unrelenting tension and the uncanny manner in which it immerses the audience in the battlefield cannot be understated, nor can the much deeper and more important themes that run through it, that are built on sacrifice and bloodshed and respectfully recreated with, seemingly, as much authenticity as the cinema medium allows. It's brutal, it's moving, it's sometimes almost impossible to watch, but the core essence and greater purpose both give meaning to the event and celebrate the sacrifices depicted therein. Lone Survivor should be remembered as the definitive film of the war it depicts, much the same way Saving Private Ryan and Platoon are remembered as the defining films of their respective wars. Universal's Blu-ray release of Lone Survivor features stunning video and fully immersive audio. Supplements could have been more in number, but what's included is fantastic. Lone Survivor earns my highest recommendation.
Lone Survivor: Other Editions
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