I quite like Lone Survivor. Clearly, so do most of you. It appears you will make it the number one movie in the country when everything is counted Sunday night. And it's for good reason.
It's a fact-based movie taken from the pages of Navy Seal Marcus Luttrel's book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. The Peter Berg directed film stays true to that failed June 28, 2005 mission where four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with capturing or killing notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. A mission that went incredibly and horrifically wrong.
Berg's fascinating ability to take you inside SEAL Team 10 is the key to this movie. It hit me in two ways. The first is the way he effectively presents the men as not just drones out there to fill a mission, but men with wives, kids, parents, concerns, dreams, aspirations and duty. It nicely sets up how heavy that plays later in the film when the men are being ripped apart by bullets while holding on, literally and figuratively, to what awaits them back home not to mention to what holds them together in the field.
The second thing Berg does is make you feel like you are completely immersed in the brutal, gruesome firefight. The battle on a rugged, boulder-filled mountain is incredibly confusing for SEAL Team 10 as they often have no idea, and occasionally miscalculate, the exact location of the Taliban. You feel that confusion as the men are pinned down and taking heavy fire. It's incredibly nerve racking to watch. Credit for that also goes to the fine cast of Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster. They are all on-point and have the energy, tone and tenor completely dialed in.
Berg was also able to show not only the humanity in members of SEAL Team 10, but in the Afghan people as well. One of the most effective is a life or death scene where there is a debunking of the notion that all Afghan people, all Muslims are bad. There is even a bit of humor in that scene, too.
I chose to see Lone Survivor with what I call a real audience, not my usual private screening arranged by the studio where it's all journalists and film critics in the seats. I feel you always get a better barometer of the film in the real world. I'm happy I decided to do it.
It was a Thursday night screening. Completely sold out. I sat next to a tough looking, huge guy, probably 6'8" or more. The theater in Marina Del Rey, California has these amazing BarcaLounger type seats. So, Tall Tough Guy starts out the movie almost completely reclined. Relaxed. Just chillin'. Midway through the movie Tall Tough Guy's footrest is down and he's sitting up, actually leaning forward, and flinching every so often at the harrowing scene unfolding on massive screen in front of us. In fact, as I looked around the audience, nearly everyone was on edge. Flinching mixed with gasps. That was, in part, due to the fantastic sound mix. The mix made it seem as if bullets and bombs were whizzing past and all around us. It added to how incredibly engaging the film is and the way it keeps you on the edge of your seat (or BarcaLounger).
After the climatic final scenes and the movie was essentially over, nobody left. That's because the movie ended and then a montage played of the real life members of SEAL Team 10. There was not a single sound in the audience until the montage ended and we got up to leave. I'm always curious to hear what people are saying as we all walk out of a movie. On this night, they were pretty quiet with a few "Wows." I also heard a "That was incredible" and a "That was some pretty intense $%*t."
I completely agree.