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.