January 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Lone Survivor' forges a bond beyond reason on a foreign battlefield

The film, starring Mark Wahlberg, is based on a actual Afghanistan battle. (Greg Peters)

“Lone Survivor” is more about the process than the end.

The end, obviously, is in the title. Only one man will survive in this film, which is based on a true Afghanistan war battle.

But what interests writer-director Peter Berg, who adapted the memoir by Marcus Luttrell, is how people work together as teams, how they form bonds beyond reason. That process was at the heart of his films “Friday Night Lights” and “The Kingdom,” and it’s central to “Lone Survivor,” as well.

In this case, Berg is following four Navy seals — played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster — sent into the mountains with the goal of killing a Taliban leader visiting a village. When they spot the leader, they realize he has many more soldiers with him than they were led to expect.

Then some goatherds stumble upon the Seals. The Seals have to decide whether to kill their unarmed captives (one is just a boy), or let them go, at which point they’ll alert the Taliban and the Seals will come under attack.

They let the captives go, and soon they’re fighting for, and losing, their lives.

Up to this point, “Lone Survivor” dangerously resembles a recruitment film, with the jocular camaraderie of the Seals set against their intense training. It feels like a call to arms — until the arms come out.

Berg’s depiction of battle carries little glory — just blood, bone-crunching falls and a sense of brotherhood that can’t prevail. It’s hard to be all that you can be when you’re a corpse. In essence, the film admires the team but exposes the game. And the game is ugly indeed.

'Lone Survivor'


Rated R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language

Running time: 121 minutes


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