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Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

'Lone Survivor' establishes and maintains a powerful intensity + Video

'Lone Survivor' establishes and maintains a powerful intensity www.lonesurvivorfilm.com
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Peter Berg
  • Dates: Opens January 10, 2014

The film's title tells the tale: "Lone Survivor," but that revelation doesn't begin to convey the intense, gut-wrenching Afghan war mission of the four SEALs featured. Seldom has a film so powerfully thrust the viewer into the violent action, communicating desperation and determination as well as dedicated brotherhood. This makes the tragedy that unfolds all the more horrific.

Based on Marcus Luttrell's 2013 book of the same title, "Lone Survivor" is Luttrell's gripping, true story. After opening scenes establish the chain of command, humor at the expense of a newbie, and casual camaraderie, Operation Red Wings launches. It's June 28th, 2005 as the reconnaissance team of Danny Dietz, Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Lutrell head by helicopter from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to insertion in a mountainous area bordering Pakistan. They're looking for Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, spotted in the region, wanted for American deaths.

No one could have predicated the next stroke of bad luck. Three goat herders, one a boy, stumble upon the four from SEAL Team 10 dug into the rocky terrain. They must now decide whether to kill, restrain and abandon, or free the herders. The debate that ensues goes quickly but resonates through the remainder of the film. They let the herders go. Soon the four SEALs will face intense firepower. An extraction team of 16 Special Op Forces' men heads for the area and will suffer dire consequences themselves, as will the nearby, friendly Pashtun villagers.

The sound, the location work, and the staging of the combat scenes present the battle with terrifying immediacy. Co-writer/director Peter Berg keeps the camera close, the claustrophobia and confusion palpable. It refuses to look away from the gruesome combat, its staging aided by consultation on the set with Lutrell himself.

Actors Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster give dynamic performances as the four principals, and the supporting cast is equally good, especially Eric Bana as Lt. Commander Erik Kristensen. They have gone on record saying how important it was for them to get this right. And "Lone Survivor" respects and honors the bravery of those who lost their lives in this mission. It's a compelling, convincing film, but note that it is not for the squeamish or the very young. Check area listings.

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