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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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Susan Granger's review of 'Lone Survivor'

Published 3:25 pm, Friday, January 17, 2014
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Writer/director Peter Berg has created an unflinching, action-packed war film about a guerilla skirmish in June 2005 in the war in Afghanistan, as recalled by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg).

Beginning with a montage of men enduring brutal Navy SEAL training and bonding to one another, Team 10 is dispatched on Operation Red Wing, a mission to take out an isolated, high-level target: senior Taliban leader Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), responsible for the deaths of 20 marines the previous week.

This courageous, four-man surveillance-and-reconnaissance team includes hospital corpsman Luttrell, Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), gunner's mate Danny P. Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and sonar technician Matthew "Axe" Axelson (Ben Foster).

Although they parachute into the rugged mountains of Kunar unobserved, they're soon discovered by a trio of goatherds. Immediately, the SEALs are faced with a dilemma. These Afghan civilians are unarmed but, if they're released -- in accordance with the Geneva Convention, there's good reason to believe they'll inform the Taliban. As commander, good-hearted Murphy frees them. As soon as he does, the youngest scampers down the mountain to reveal their whereabouts. Ferociously intense fighting ensues, as everything that can go wrong -- does. Their chances for survival are further lessened by their inability to contact Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kristensen (Eric Bana) at headquarters.

Based on Luttrell's memoir, "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10," Peter Berg ("Battleship," "The Kingdom") respectfully explores somewhat the same territory as "Black Hawk Down," "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" in the continuing battle against the Taliban. The realistic performances are strong and affecting -- with relentless authenticity heightened by Kevin Scott's gritty stunt squad, Tobias A. Schliessler's gruesome cinematography, Colby Park Jr's. editing and David Brownlow's sound mixing. Most memorable among the Arab actors is Ali Suliman ("The Attack"), who plays a pivotal part, offering brief sanctuary to Luttrell.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Lone Survivor" is a low-key yet brutal, sobering 7. The sad title, itself, is a spoiler.