Review: ‘Lone Survivor’ is ‘The Passion of the Christ’ for soldiers

Trick question: In "Lone Survivor," which one will not die: Taylor Kitsch or Mark Wahlberg? Gregory R. Peters
Trick question: In “Lone Survivor,” which one will not die — Taylor Kitsch or Mark Wahlberg?
Gregory R. Peters

‘Lone Survivor’
Director: Peter Berg
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch
Rating: R
1 Globe (out of 5)

“Lone Survivor” — “based,” as per the posters, “on true acts of courage,” though also Marcus Luttrell’s book — comes at the end of a year dominated by tales, of well, survival. “Gravity,” “All is Lost” and the posthumously released Paul Walker drama “Hours” all find people cornered by fate and forced to fight for their lives. Despite its title, this military valentine, for most of its run, features four people, each involved in a horrific real-life incident. In 2005, a failed mission to capture or kill a Taliban leader led to a SEAL team cornered on a mountainside and picked-off one-by-one.

But in other ways, “Lone Survivor” is even more stripped-down than the movie where Robert Redford doesn’t speak while trying not to drown. At least he tried to save his yacht before inflating a raft while trying to create drinkable water. Our heroes, led by Mark Wahlberg’s Lutrell, do little but suffer abuse. Each of them — played by Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster — get shot at least a dozen times. They fall down rocky hills and hit trees. They grunt and spit blood and swear, all the while taking down untold Taliban goons, who appear to be either pretty awful shots or just not man enough to take bullet after bullet and still bring the pain. America!

And that’s all there is to “Lone Survivor.” It doesn’t, to its credit, feature over-the-top jingoism or superimposed American flags. It’s apolitical and absolutely context-free, beyond the basic facts of the mission. It’s for the segment of the population who likes to watch soldiers being shot repeatedly or fall down hills over and over again, with the sound design cranking up the sound on every bone smash and fracture, ad nauseum, for two hours-plus. It’s “The Passion of the Christ” for military enthusiasts — an epic of pain and suffering, meant to bludgeon civilians into a guilt trip.

“Lone Survivor” does have some fine actors, each giving it their all, or as much as they can given it’s all beatings. (In addition to the rest, Eric Bana periodically files appearances as a swaggering, concerned Lieutenant back at home base.) That makes it superior to “Act of Valor,” the risible picture (“based on real acts of valor,” said its posters) in which soldiers were portrayed as personality-free saints. But even better are films (like “Hurt Locker”) that delve into the mindset required to do the impossible and accept potential non-existence for a higher cause. This exists primarily to convince far right extremists that film critics hate the troops, when it’s really just bad movies.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


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