Lone Survivor was No. 1 at the box office this past weekend, which proves nothing puts asses into seats more than a good-ol'-fashioned war movie about ride-or-die American soldiers. Hell, a movie theater in my home state of Texas made news by canceling screenings of other movies, including American Hustle, Her and Anchorman 2, just so they could show more Survivor screenings. Hey, when you have a film that'll get Middle America out in the cold, I guess you can put a showing or two of A Madea Christmas on hold.
Then again, the movie is based on the true experiences of a Texan Navy SEAL (played here by eminent Bostonian Mark Wahlberg). As the title gives away, Wahlberg's frogman becomes the last man limping as he and his equally manly, bearded, Navy SEAL team (Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster) get caught in some heavy Taliban crossfire during a failed mission in Afghanistan.
After nearly sinking his career with Battleship — perhaps the first and last summer movie to ever feature Rihanna as a Navy weapons specialist — writer/director Peter Berg (The Kingdom) slips back into being the most proudly jingoistic director out there with this aggressive bit of war porn. (As writer/critic Robert Wilonsky once said of Berg, the man directs angry.) He certainly makes you feel the pain of Wahlberg and his crew, who get bloodied and bruised — there are not one but two extended sequences where they almost destroy their bodies while tumbling down a mountainside — to the point where you hope they got combat pay.
Considering that Berg, Wahlberg and most of the cast have been involved in better war movies — this certainly reminded me how awesome Wahlberg was in Three Kings — Survivor does feel predictably pat with its blunt us-versus-them narrative. (Berg does present some sympathetic Afghanis in the form of villagers who protect Wahlberg's character until the cavalry comes.) But I feel I should cut ol' Petey some slack. After that Battleship bullshit, a middlebrow yay-for-America war flick like Lone Survivor looks like Grand Illusion in comparison.
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