Lone Survivor (movie review)

As you may already be aware, Lone Survivor is an adaptation of Marcus Luttrell’s book regarding his experiences during a SEAL Team operation in Afghanistan. Given this, I don’t have any intent on analyzing the plot because to do so feels disrespectful, but instead, I’ll take a look at how the movie itself functions.

That’s a tough title to work with!
JRR Tolkien wanted to publish The Lord of the Rings as one giant novel, but the publisher thought to do so would make the product cost prohibitive to the target audience, so they broke it up into three books, calling the last one Return of the King. Tolkien hated the title because it tells you what happens at the end and Lone Survivor grapples with the same issue.
So, if you’re wondering how the movie ends, just take a look at the title.
Right off the bat, you know that of your four protagonists, only one will be left at the end of the film. This is tough to pull off, because this sets expectations in the audiences’ mind. I thought they handled it well – I wouldn’t say it was done perfectly, but you really felt each protagonist’s death, which is important to keep the viewer rooted to the story.

Pace is my biggest problem with Lone Survivor – it’s two hours long and you feel every single minute, but not necessarily in a good way. Despite the movie’s beautiful camera work (that really made me want to go to New Mexico), the movie’s palate is basically brown and dark green, and it gets kinda tiresome. But more than that, the movie’s initial setup takes too long. The idea was to illustrate the comradery between the protagonists before they went on their mission, but it felt plodding and repetitive.

Cinematography is ACES
There are only so many ways to film a tree, but I’ll be damned if Lone Survivor didn’t find every single one of them. It must be tough to shoot a movie that’s almost entirely set in the woods, and it all really blends together, but they made it work better than I ever would have thought was possible. I thought the falling/rolling down the mountain/hill was especially well photographed – it looked amazing. Also, hats off to the stunt team. Check this out:

Filming first took place at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest. Eight days were spent on mountains ranging from 11,000 to 12,000 feet (3,400–3,700 m). In recreating the Hindu Kush mountain range that stretches between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the film crew shot at 10 separate locations in the national forest.[1]:22 The film’s stunt coordinator was its second unit director Kevin Scott, who was tasked with depicting the four Navy SEALs tumbling down rugged terrain with sixty-degree inclines. Scott did not choreograph the stunt work, nor did he have the stunt performers use wires or dummies;[30][38] he told them to fall 15 to 20 feet (4.6–6.1 m) off cliffs and avoid looking at the ground until right before impact.[39] “We had to say, ‘Jump off the rock, land however you land, and go with it,’” he said. “When you’re doing that on a true hillside, you don’t have a choice. Gravity takes over. The only thing stopping the stunt people from dropping another thousand feet down the hillside was padding set up just outside of the shot.”[30] Several stunt performers were injured after falling from the mountains, as the falls proved too difficult to control.[38] Berg recalled, “Some guys got hurt, some guys got bumped up and ribs were broken, a lung was punctured, some concussions, but these guys were determined to try and do everything they could to capture what Marcus described in the book.”

That is some old school film making right there. I had to ask an actor to break a pencil in front of his face once and I was so terrified he’d hurt himself I nearly scrapped it, so I can’t imagine asking guys to tumble down a mountain like this If I were running a set, told a guy to roll down a hill so I could film it and he punctured his lung… I would never recover from that. That would positively break my brain. It’s all up there on the screen and it looks amazing… yeah, it’s just extreme.

I haven’t felt this way about a movie in a long time. It was good – it wasn’t great. I certainly recommend it… I’m sure there are lots of people with much more extreme feelings on Lone Survivor than me, so I’ll leave it to them to heap praise upon or tear it shreds. As for me, I’m giving it a 7 out of 10. It’s a solid movie, but I’m not promising you a classic.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on July 2, 2014, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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