Lone Survivor Review: American Jingoism at its Finest

Marky Mark and the Cranky Bunch.
Marky Mark and the Cranky Bunch.

About a year ago, a horrid movie starring real life marines –Act of Valor– made a splash at the multiplex. The acting was amateur, the action scenes were confusing and the dialogue was hilariously bad (“the shit filter is full!”), but it made money (70 million dollars at the box office).

Bound to happen, here comes the Hollywood version pandering to the Red States.

Lone Survivor is one troubling piece of celluloid. Competently made, the film sanctifies the Navy SEALs involved in the fateful Operation Red Wings, in which the Taliban killed 19 American soldiers while sustaining a number of casualties themselves. The movie focuses on the four commandos engaged in combat with the Afghan rebels, who endure unbelievable trauma in their efforts to get Ahmad Shah, a singularly vicious terrorist (kind of like Starship Troopers, minus the satire). The outcome of the procedure is in the title: Only Corpsman Second Class Marcus Lutrell made it out alive.

Even though the film is based on Lutrell’s account of the incident (the book “Lone Survivor: The Eye Witness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10”), director Peter Berg made several questionable decisions in his portrait of the events. Berg, responsible for the embarrassing Battleship, depicts Navy SEALs as superior human beings, family men bound by a code of honor and a higher sense of purpose. They’re like Christ with more stamina. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Check out Taylor Kitsch’s final scene and get back to me.

There is not a whiff of texture in the entire movie. The SEALs are saints, the Taliban are despicable tyrants (granted, they are), and some Afghans are so nice, they’re worth the sacrifice. Why is this problematic? As much as an entire squad is wiped out on camera, Lone Survivor works as a two hour long ad for the American armed forces: Fight for your country, find camaraderie, die with honour and leave a good -ooking corpse. The entire military experience is reduced to combat.

If there is anything worth the effort in Lone Survivor, that would be the stunts: The four protagonists roll down steep hills to escape the Taliban. At least it’s original and feels painful. The hand-to-hand clashes are too poorly edited to follow and guerrilla-style confrontations are not particularly cinematic.

The ending of Lone Survivor is broadly manipulative. It features about five minutes of photos of the fallen in happier times, with David Bowie’s “Heroes” playing in the background (get it? They are heroes!) It’s not even Bowie’s kickass song, but a whiny, downbeat cover by Peter Gabriel.

Saving Private Ryan worked because the characters were relatable people in extraordinary circumstances that questioned their involvement in them. Lone Survivor has less to do with Ryan and more with Team America. Again, minus the satire.

Half a prairie dog. The lower half.

Lone Survivor is now playing.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

13 thoughts on “Lone Survivor Review: American Jingoism at its Finest”

  1. Fuck this guy who wrote this Article about Lone Survivor. He’s just a bitch that would never mak it in the military. hes just mad that he always will suck at life. Just another reason why movie critics always suck. Go write about some lame ass low budget movie that’s attracts all the weirdos. This isn’t a recruiting add. Marcus Luttrell just wanted his story about his fallen brothers to be heard. Keep living in a country that gives you freedom and you don’t have to do shit in return. This movie was great, thank God there are movie producers like Berg who actually care about our military. you really had the nerve to write that Berg thinks SEALs are like Christ with more stanima, WTF You should be down on your knees everyday, thanking God that there are men like Us willing to DO what we do , willing to lay down our lives for people like you. Just another movie critic hating on war films. If you walked out of this movie not emotional, you need to go pound some sand.

  2. Oh, Scott. Glad you enjoyed the Kool-aid. I won’t address the insults, but let me tell you, I don’t hate war films. Quite the opposite. Movies like “Saving Private Ryan” (which I mention in my article) and “The Thin Red Line” address the madness of war in compelling ways. Soldiers aren’t portrayed as superheroes, but men in an impossible situation struggling to keep their sanity and protect their humanity in the least human context imaginable. “Lone Survivor” has none of that. It’s basically propaganda for people to support a war that’s already lost. I never criticized Luttrell or his ordeal. My criticism is entirely about the film.

  3. Yeah, fuck you, Jorge! How DARE you launch a devastating attack against soldiers under the guise of a movie “review”? Soldiers are the greatest heroes in Canadian history!

    We must NEVER forget that soldiers gave Canadians health care, unemployment insurance, the end of segregation in the U.S. (plus they built the Underground Railroad), votes for women, votes for Indigenous people on reserves, social programs that help the poor, the Quiet Revolution, public museums, libraries and art galleries that inform and educate people regardless of their income, affordable university and college education (until the mid ’90s when that was taken away but it was nice while it lasted) and all that other great historic progress of the 20th century.

    Soldiers discovered insulin, invented basketball, engineered the Canadarm, trained Wayne Gretzky, established the CBC, brought telecommunications to rural Saskatchewan, saved the East Coast cod fishery, banned asbestos, legalized same-sex marriage, exposed the Senate scandal and INVENTED THE FREAKING TELEPHONE. How DARE you attack them, which is clearly what you’ve done here?

    Frankly, I don’t see why anyone who isn’t a soldier should even be allowed to vote.

    With a name like “Jorge Ignacio Castillo” I’m guessing you’re a dirty Latin American commie anyway. Soldiers and movies about soldiers are and will ALWAYS be above criticism, Jorge. Never forget that! Unless you want someone to tie a yellow ribbon around your pinko neck!

    I’ll be watching you, buster!

  4. I agree with Scott. Jorge should be on his knees, cleaning the bathroom! Also, pick-up some ice cream.

  5. As a Canadian Forces vet, I estimate the chance that “Scott” is in the military to be approaching zero. Actual warrior types (for the record, I was/am nothing of the sort) tend to not carry on, the way he does in his little note.

  6. I believe pc is right. One of my biggest beefs with Lone Survivor is the fact it reduces the notion of soldier to combat.

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