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MARK WAHLBERG IN LONE SURVIVOR

year: 2014 rating: ***
Although based on a true story, LONE SURVIVOR, especially during the riveting first half, plays out like an old school/body count war film. The soldiers are properly introduced during the first fifteen minutes before the 2005 mission OPERATION RED WINGS: to take out a Taliban chief within an obscure village surrounded by a formidable, rock-filled valley.

We first meet the American heroes within the safety of their compound, waking up while visited by Murphy, played by BATTLESHIP actor Taylor Kitsch, who turns in a surprisingly mature performance...

As he enters each room, we learn about stuff ranging from wedding gifts to pop culture preferences… The members of SEAL TEAM 10 not only have loved ones at home, but are very human and vulnerable.

Then, skipping past an intriguing set-up, right after the mission goes wrong, the troop is surrounded by a large number of Taliban... Thus a prolonged action-packed sequence involves a shattering gunfight within the crest of the mountain where each soldier, sans Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Luttrell, gets taken out. And in a film titled LONE SURVIVAL, to say everyone dies except Luttrell is hardly a spoiler... The most jarring scenes bring us up-close into each soldier’s rolling/tumbling fight for survival amidst seemingly impossible odds.

Along with Wahlberg and Kitsch is an edgy, unpredictable Ben Foster and a more grounded and passive Emile Hirsch... Meanwhile, the title is both fitting and misleading: much of the story centers on the entire Team, making Wahlberg seem more of an ensemble cog than a leading role.

At times the dialogue tries too hard to sound authentic, bathed in mundane realism and often corny military cliché one-liners, and director Peter Berg piles on the ultra-violence a bit too heavy, perhaps competing with anything of the bloody action genre… But he always keeps the situation clear enough for the viewer to get lost inside this unfathomable nightmare. 

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