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01/08/2014

Big Mac movie review: How Lone Survivor rivals Saving Private Ryan

UnknownDirector Peter Berg did not need to alter much of Marcus Luttrell's first-hand account of Operation Red Wings, but some tinkering does occur.

Regardless, the movie "Lone Survivor", which is based on the SEAL's best-selling book that chronicled his failed mission in Afghanistan where so many of his buddies died in a fierce fire fight with the Taliban, does what he wanted - give us an idea of how terrifying his ordeal was. And how much valor was required simply to hang on.

The two-hour movie opens nationally on Friday, and while the last 25 minutes alters history, Berg and Mark Wahlberg created a film that leaves a mark. The middle hour of this film rivals the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan in terms of relentless intensity.

The story: Four SEALS head up to the mountains in Afghanistan to eliminate a notorious Taliban leader. During their mission, a few Afghans accidentally discover them. The SEALS must decide to either kill them, to let them go would mean a most certain fight against well armed, numerous, opponent. Fearing how the story would be spun if they killed the three men, the SEALs let them go and shortly thereafter all hell breaks loose.

The fight: True to the book, Berg accurately shows the fight between the Taliban fighters and the SEALs. Out-numbered likely by 100 to 4, maybe more, the SEALS fought and retreated over impossible rocky, steep terrain against an opponent that had superior positioning.

Lone-Survivor-ss-35bOn film, it feels like this sequence last about an hour. It never stops, as the SEALS eventually are picked apart and fight despite being shot to pieces.

The rescue attempt is one of the more frightening pieces of film making created.

Alterations: Because of time constraints, Berg had to compress Luttrell's slow and painful process of finding water, and eventually being taken in by Afghan villagers who risked everything to save his life.

The book details a level of compassion displayed by these Afghan villagers that is often over-looked in war.

This is the only part where Berg changes history; in the book, Luttrell stayed in the village, and was eventually help out by a man whom he has befriended for life. The movie takes a Hollywood approach, complete with a shootout.

The people: Wahlberg is good in a physically demanding role as Luttrell. Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster play the real-life SEALS who died on that mountain ridge. Foster is especially good as Matt "Axe" Axelson.

If you look hard during one of the earlier sequences at a base in Afghanistan, you can catch a cameo by Luttrell and Peter Berg.

Be sure to stay through the end to see the real life photographs of the many brave men who died during this ordeal.

Will it do well in the awards season? There is no political commentary about the war, or the military, yet more of an attempt to tell what happened. That should help give it a chance for some awards. The technical aspects will be nominated, and Foster should get serious consideration for Best Supporting Actor. 

Should you see it: Yes.

@MacEngelProf

tengel@star-telegram.com

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Comments

Harry Williams

Absolutely brilliant, it was a two hour treat, excellent acting from Walburg and Foster...roll on the Oscars its about time Ben was recognised for his talents..fell in love with his acting since I watched 6 feet under
Five stars

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