Lone Survivor is of several minds when it approaches the war film genre. It has all-out action like Black Hawk Down, tries to bring some commentary to the war like Jarhead did way better, there’s attempts at tear-jerking and trying to pull on your heart strings ala something like Saving Private Ryan. I’m not saying Lone Survivor is as good as any of these films, it’s not, but it tries to do a lot with what it has and only really accomplished these goals on one front.
It seems like I’m the only one, but I’ve always been of the mind that Black Hawk Down is grossly overrated. To me it was just one two –anda-half hour action scene, with little character development and nothing to grab hold of. Sure, I’m like every red-blooded male (clichés are fun) and love action scenes, especially in a war, but it just became too much where it was all the film became. That’s largely what Lone Survivor is for the vast majority of the runtime, just an extended action scene. It’s also basically like a survival horror movie, minus the horror part, where we have a cast of about eight people or something, and throughout the film they’ll be picked off in different ways, and like the title promises we’ll be left with a “lone survivor,” get it?
The film wants to have all this action, but deeper than that Peter Berg wants it to MEAN something. I mean, let’s get real here, when you break the very thin veil of this film it’s all just American war propaganda. It’s a film that is showcasing the resiliency and plight of the American soldier, and their strengths in overcoming adversity. It’s so blatantly shoved down our throats that it eventually turns into a self-righteous message film. Of course, it’s terrible what happened to these men, and a tribute they deserve, but the way the film aggrandizes everything, and puts the main focus on Mark Wahlberg eventually becomes a disservice.
While the action and message aspects of the film don’t work, it does manage to find some touching and interesting moments near the end where Wahlberg’s character is taken in by a local Afghan tribe and protected. It’s not much and isn’t very long, as it’s just a transition area where Wahlberg can eventually easily get rescued, but the moments spent with Wahlberg and these tribe members are really well done. Of course, Wahlberg doesn’t know their true motive and is distanced by a language barrier, but some actual character development and connections are created that, hey, actually made me feel something when he was torn from these people who saved him, and when he thanked them for basically risking their lives for an American. This is the stuff that the relentless action is often quick to pass-over, not that it can’t be done that way, but it’s quick to be jettisoned for more explosions.
I know Peter Berg really wanted to do this film, something different than his other more “action-y” films, and while there are some strands of it, his old films creep in too much. I mean, sure he wanted to do something like this over Battleship but really when you boil it down it’s all the same. Action, action, action, FEEL SOMETHING. Now since this is supposedly an actual serious film, Berg doubles down on the MESSAGE OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW GREAT AMERICANS AND THEIR SOLDIERS ARE. That’s what this film is screaming at you.