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Article by Teddy Durgin

Lone Survivor Looks to Endure at the Box Office

On the same day that the ludicrously bloodless "The Legend of Hercules" opened in theaters last week, the very bloody and very graphic "Lone Survivor" expanded from a handful of screens in New York and L.A. to wide release. There is no legend or myth-making here, folks. This is a grim, tense, intense drama about a team of real Navy SEALs who went on a very real mission in Afghanistan circa 2005 that went horribly wrong. It might start out in its opening minutes as a rah-rah recruitment film for the SEALs program. But by the end of this thing, you don't wanna be these dudes. I thank the flag that there are dudes like these dudes willing to go to Hell and back for God and country. But, uh, I'll take the desk, the laptop and the Hyundai car payments any day, thank you. "Lone Survivor" is not a war movie. It's a men-on-a-mission movie. Not a goofy one like "The Expendables" or a fantastical one like "Predator." It's closer in tone to "Saving Private Ryan." I can't quite call it entertainment. But its main purpose, I think, is to deliver authenticity. It wants to put you, the viewer, in the boots of these guys hunting Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, and it does. I found the film absolutely harrowing. Peter Berg's direction here is unflinching. It's like he not only set out to make a film that felt and played as real as possible, it's also like he was exorcising some past demon or making up for some previous transgression or something. Maybe this is his big-screen apology for his previous directorial effort, the goofy, jingoistic "Battleship." He even recruits the ill-fated star of that flick, Taylor Kitsch, and makes him a key supporting player here. Both men get back on track with "Lone Survivor." For better or worse, Berg has delivered exactly the flick he wanted to make here, and Kitsch steps back from seeking pretty-boy, leading-man status to show he can deliver some solid, dramatic work. Mark Wahlberg, though, is the star playing the title character of Marcus Luttrell. And he is also quite good. I guess if the movie has one major shortcoming, you can say that its title gives away its most crucial plot point. What's up with that?! It's like if they had titled the "Captain Phillips" movie "Three Africans Get Shot in the Head." In that regard, the key questions you'll be asking as you watch "Lone Survivor" are: "Uh, how bad is Luttrell going to get hurt on his path to survival?" and "Eeek! How messed-up are the other guys who don't survive going to die?" The same company who does the gore and makeup effects for "The Walking Dead" provide the gore and makeup effects for this film AND they are given a R-rated framework to work with - need I say more? Some may want "Lone Survivor" to offer up some sort of grand political statement or biting social commentary about the war in Afghanistan. But that's not this film. It's not how it is structured. It's not why it was made. Again, it's a men-on-a-mission movie. And not too far into it, it morphs into a survival flick. I have no intentions of ever seeing this movie again. But I'm glad I saw it once.

"Lone Survivor" is rated R for strong, bloody war violence and pervasive language.

 

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