Tag Archives: Lone Survivor

Review – Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is devastating, which as war-is-hell movies go is high praise. Like the best of this season’s many films examining impossible choices, director Peter Berg eschews ham-fisted sentimentality by filling the screen with nothing but the naked gory truth and letting the audience choose their own individual takeaways.

In this case the impossible choice involves a 4-man Navy Seal Team operation in the mountains of Afghanistan who gets inadvertently discovered by a family of Afghan civilians. The soldiers have to decide whether to let the family go, thereby giving away their position to the local Taliban army, or to slaughter innocent people and save their own lives. They make a decision, but as the title suggests, it doesn’t go well for the team.

[ WARNING: The next paragraph is arguably a bit spoiler-y, though it’s nothing that isn’t already given away by the film’s title. It won’t affect your enjoyment of the film either way.]

Mark Wahlberg does a fine job starring as the real life Marcus Luttrell, who survived to come back and write the memoir the film is based on. But the highlight of the cast is the fantastic Ben Foster as a warrior who, in the most literal sense, refuses to give up the fight until his last breath. The SAG-winning stunt team earned every ounce of their award, repeatedly throwing themselves down sharp rocky cliffs over the course of several of the films most cringe worthy scenes.

My biggest issue had to do with an overlong tribute sequence before the end credits showing pictures and video of the real life soldiers involved, which, though it feels heartless to say, I found a bit distracting at the time. In retrospect, however, it actually perfectly bookends a similar home-video opening credit sequence of real (not staged) Navy Seal training routines.

This had been a long-simmering passion project for Berg, who in order to secure a studio greenlight, agreed to helm last year’s dismal Battleship first. He’s a talented man, but there’s not a director alive that could’ve saved that script.  I’m glad he did it, though, because as bad as it was, the excellence of Lone Survivor more than makes up for it.

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WGA Nominations

Writers-Guild-Awards

Of all the various guild awards, the Writers Guild nominations are traditionally the least likely to match up with the Oscars. This is because their eligibility rules are notoriously strict, and every year several major contenders are deemed ineligible. This year that list includes, among others, Blue is the Warmest Color, Fruitvale Station, Philomena, Rush, and the prohibitive winner of the Adapted Screenplay Oscar: 12 Years a Slave.

There are still surprises to be had, though. In the Original category, Inside Llewyn Davis was eligible but still missed a nomination. The excellent Dallas Buyers Club nabbed its spot. Gravity missed the boat too, which is a real shame, though not all that surprising. All the talk surrounding that film has been how it’s screenplay is its weakest link. This is totally bogus, of course; just because it’s dialogue is sparse doesn’t mean it’s not a deeply layered and inventively structured story. It wouldn’t be tied for the lead in the Best Picture race if it’s script was really as unmemorable as they say.

In the Adapted category, the biggest surprise is Lone Survivor, which gets its first mention of the season. I haven’t seen that film yet, but from everything I’ve been reading, if this weren’t such a competitive year, I imagine we’d be looking at a potential Best Picture with this one.

Here the full list of WGA nominees…

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • American Hustle, Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; Columbia Pictures
  • Blue Jasmine, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics
  • Dallas Buyers Club, Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack; Focus Features
  • Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.
  • Nebraska, Written by Bob Nelson; Paramount Pictures

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • August: Osage County, Screenplay by Tracy Letts; Based on his play; The Weinstein Company
  • Before Midnight, Written by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Based on characters created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan; Sony Classics
  • Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures
  • Lone Survivor, Written by Peter Berg; Based on the book by Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson; Universal Pictures
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, Screenplay by Terence Winter; Based on the book by Jordan Belfort; Paramount Pictures

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY

  • Dirty Wars, Written by Jeremy Scahill & David Riker; Sundance Selects
  • Herblock – The Black & The White, Written by Sara Lukinson & Michael Stevens; The Stevens Company
  • No Place on Earth, Written by Janet Tobias & Paul Laikin; Magnolia Pictures
  • Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley; Roadside Attractions
  • We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks; Written by Alex Gibney; Focus Features
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