January 12, 2014

Movie Review: Lone Survivor

So, I went and saw Lone Survivor. That happened. It certainly was a finely crafted movie, filled with solid performances, some nice cinematography, a surprisingly well balanced treatment of characters, some thrilling shootouts, and to top it off It has a reality to back up its tale. Granted, it is twisted a little for cinematic purposes, but that's all right, it is expected when anything true is adapted to the big screen. It is also a movie that has not exactly inspired me to write some big review about it. Still, I felt a little desire to go over a couple of reactions to it, so this is likely going to be even more random and stream of consciousness than I usually am.

Lone Survivor is depicted in a very realistic fashion. This coming from someone who has never served, has no desire to, and really has no idea if it is real or not. What I am saying is that the way it plays out (even if dramatized and/or amped up for the big screen) feels like this is how it could really play out. Of course, knowing the outcome of the real events puts a damper on a bit of the suspense (which in turn allows me to forgive the at times manipulative film making, it is all for the reaction) and takes a little from some of the decisions that need to be made during the execution of the tale.

I have read how some people think they should have killed the kids and gone on with the mission. To me that is a horrifying thought. Sure, terrible things happen in war, things happen that we wish didn't, we wish couldn't, and wish we could change. In this case, the right decision was made to honor the rules of engagement and act like human beings. We should never be killing kids. Could it have changed this outcome? Quite likely, but there was no way of knowing that what happened was going to happen.

To follow that up, I am horrified of war, it is such a terrible thing that for some reason seems to be a necessity. I am not an anti military or anti gun guy, but seriously, what is wrong with people that we need to fight all the time? To recall an overused phrase: Can't we all just get along? Yes, I know humanity is a violent species and that blood thirst has been with us forever, but here's to hoping one day we can advance to a stage where war is not needed. Think of the good that money could do if we didn't have to fund war.

For anyone who has ever served and seen action, I hope you are all right. I know that doesn't sound like much, but with the horrors that can be seen, perpetrated, and experienced in war I do not know how anyone can mentally recover from that. That is something that would be stuck in my mind for as long as I lived. I love movies and graphic horror films, but that is obviously fake, the idea of having to process the reality of such violent death and gore is unfathomable. It must have a lasting effect and I hope that anyone forced to experience it is able to get the support they need, from family, counseling, friends, whatever.

As the movie played out and it got to where the firefight was starting, I must admit to being slightly taken aback to audience reactions. Everytime a Taliban is shot in the head, I heard laughter and cheers. I know, I know, it is war and they were the bad guys, but the audience just seemed so callous, so desensitized to death. It is not the kind of fighting we should be reveling in, we should be more concerned with the safety of our men than with the cheering on of killing.

Oh yeah, it seemed that there was a lot of falling down the mountain scenes. Seriously, lots and lots of falling to almost comedic (unintentional, of course) effect. Really, the only thing I could think of was this scene from another movie:

I particularly liked the moments towards the end of the film where Luttrell is found by the Afghan villager and all of their interactions. This seemed to be a very important sequence to me. It helped make the movie feel a bit less like propaganda (which seems to be part of the genre these days) and brought in a certain amount of balance. It seems like all too often it is forgotten that not everyone in these Middle Eastern countries is an enemy. Not everyone subscribes to the idea of Evil America, not everyone takes up arms to kill, fight, and destroy anyone who thinks differently. It is an important thing to realize, yet it seems so simple. Watching his interactions, which are not made to be sappy and keep in with the tone of everything else, just helps bring back a little focus. Just watch the boy, this is very good stuff.

Also, remember this is “Based on a True Story.” It is not a “True Story.” It is important to remember the words “based on.” You can find different places online that go over some of the liberties taken, but just remember that this is a representation of a real event, but it is also a piece of entertainment part of whose goal is to make money. Too that end, things will be changed here and there to make the movie more cinematic. It happens. Basically, just realize this is not exactly how it happened. Yes, it is close, but not exact. This is not intended to be a documentary.

This is a good example of a new type of war film. War has gotten uglier and uglier and even more indistinct. This is not to take away from wars of the past, but modern warfare is a very different thing. In the past we were involved in wars against countries or groups of countries, like the Allied and Axis powers in WWII. These days there is the "War on Terror" you have groups (Al Qaeda, Taliban, etc.) and the enemy is faceless. It is not like fighting another army. This movie helps show that shapeless, formless mass of the enemy and how it can be near impossible to discern friend or foe, or at least foe from not foe.

Yes, Lone Survivor is a good movie. I liked it, I was caught up in the firefights, I was trapped by the drama, and I was moved at its climax. At times it felt a bit manipulative as it toyed with my emotions, there seems to be a rah rah element that creeps in at times, perhaps to inspire people to sign up for service, but overall it was legitimately involving and is quite well made. Not sure where it stands in the pantheon of war films, but that is more for time to decide, although I am not sure I will ever feel the need to watch it again, but do not regret one minute of watching it.


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