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Mark Wahlberg
Ben Foster
Emile Hirsch
Taylor Kitsch
Eric Bana
Alexander Ludwig
Jerry Ferrara
Yousuf Azami.
Peter Berg.
Peter Berg.
Running Time
121 minutes

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Lone Survivor
Courage under fire

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During a covert mission to take out a notorious Taliban commander, Four US Navy SEALs (Wahlberg, Kitsch, Hirsch and Foster) are stumbled upon by Afghan goatherds. Their position compromised, the squad retreats deep into the mountains, outnumbered and outgunned by a pursuing Taliban force.

Lone Survivor

For a film with an hour-long firefight in which a quartet of Navy SEALs are shot, burned, blown up and impaled, it’s curious that the most brutal opponent in Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor turns out to be a tree. In a scene that surpasses 2007’s Hot Rod as the definitive example of Man Vs. Hill, the four soldiers, fleeing incoming fire, hurl themselves over a rocky escarpment. The resulting 30-second descent makes you feel every crack, thud and crunch, as they collide with stumps and rocky outcrops before coming to a sudden arboreal stop. It’s an eye-watering sequence, one that leaves you as emotionally battered and broken as the men themselves (not to mention the stuntman who suffered three broken ribs and a punctured lung). And if that weren’t enough, 20 minutes later it happens all over again.

An ocean away from Battleship’s frothy action, Berg’s latest war film shows a very different face to armed conflict, demonstrating how even the best-laid plans fall apart in the face of sod’s immutable law. Based on Marcus Luttrell’s bestselling account of Operation Red Wings, Lone Survivor jettisons much of the book’s context, focusing on the mission itself. The single, rolling engagement that occupies almost half the film’s run time is a punishing ordeal deftly handled by Berg, who shows off the knack for limited-vantage, running firefights he demonstrated in The Kingdom.

But as effective as the action is, it comes at the expense of personality. We know almost nothing about the men whose lives hang in the balance, save for a fumbled series of playbook touchstones (an IM chat to a sweetheart back home and some eye-rolling at a wife’s interior design choices). Berg veteran Taylor Kitsch gives a decent stab at bringing humanity to squad leader Lt. Murphy, while Wahlberg does his level best to breathe some life into Luttrell himself; Emile Hirsch, on the other hand, is left with almost nothing to do. The opposition fares still worse, with Taliban commander Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami) beheading an Afghan villager purely to show how horribly evil he is. A sop at the film’s conclusion, insisting that not all Afghans are bloodthirsty insurgents, only serves to highlight the film’s binary morality.

It’s particularly unfortunate given that the story hinges on a morally complex decision. Discovered by a trio of non-combatants, the soldiers wrestle with the practical implications of cutting them loose and the ethical consequences of cutting their throats. Given how the film pans out, you can’t help wondering whether the point of this tale is that they’d have been far better off having murdered the lot of them, which is discomfiting to say the least. That the team did not is commendable, but their hagiographic treatment is as unwarranted as it is poor storytelling. The notion that these men are red-blooded American heroes is banged home with alarming regularity, and capped off by an arduous montage of the real-life soldiers, set to a cover of Bowie’s Heroes. If you’re looking for political subtlety, even Battleship might be a better option than this.

A lack of story finesse can’t eclipse the veracity of the action, however. For half of Lone Survivor the battle is the narrative, and there it scores a hit with every shot. Quite possibly the most authentic gunfight you’ll see and the most affecting view of combat since Black Hawk Down, this is a potent glimpse at the reality of modern warfare for the Call Of Duty generation.

A severe portrait of fortitude under extreme pressure, somewhat marred by blinkered politics.

Reviewed by James Dyer

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Lone Survivor
Empire Star Rating

God Bless America Ahemm

Well other then the action scenes and a few good performances the film comes across as advert to join the army. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by WozisWoz at 16:19, 18 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: "Arduous" Way to the respect the dead...

L: Dr Lenera Largely avoiding politics, despite much claiming to the contrary by some lefties who dislike any film which portrays soldiers as heroes 6.5/10 ondescension aside, IT DOES show politics though, the entire coda about the Afghans' relations with the Taliban is political enough even if it avoids it for most of the film, and it is weird. The whole "OUR SOLDIERS THERE ARE HEROES GEDDIT HEROES" is also an utter simplification of a complicated, to say the least, conflict and the... More

Posted by Deviation at 13:27, 14 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: "Arduous" Way to the respect the dead...

Based on a failed "Operation Red Wings" mission which takes place on June 28, 2005, a four-man Navy SEALs team - Marcus Luttrell, Michael P. Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz - are sent into the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan to apprehend Taliban commander Ahmad Shah. However, their mission is compromised when they stumble upon local goat herders. Facing a dilemma whether to kill them or to let them go, they choose the latter option - an ill-fated decision that soon costs them dearly... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:30, 11 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: "Arduous" Way to the respect the dead...

Thoroughly enjoyed this, but although well intentioned I'm sure, it overplays the sentiment at times, especially frustrating when it didn't need to, the film had plenty of poignancy without having to hammer it home for good measure. Still well worth a watch mind. 3.5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 11:26, 07 February 2014 | Report This Post

"Arduous" Way to the respect the dead...

Poor show describing the montage at the end as arduous. You could've chosen to leave. Especially disrespectful to the families. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by turkish_187 at 21:14, 06 February 2014 | Report This Post


I read the book some time ago and there is much more to it that is portrayed in the film. The books covers SEAL training and the sense of brotherhood, the incident in the film and the protection by the villagers. Certainly the village aspect is far less violent than the film. Having said that and the film only showing a certain aspect of the book, I quite enjoyed it. It felt very real (and painful) even if the bad guys were a little bit clichéd and showed just what a difficult environ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 09:55, 06 February 2014 | Report This Post


I read the book some time ago and there is much more to it that is portrayed in the film. The books covers SEAL training and the sense of brotherhood, the incident in the film and the protection by the villagers. Certainly the village aspect is far less violent than the film. Having said that and the film only showing a certain aspect of the book, I quite enjoyed it. It felt very real (and painful) even if the bad guys were a little bit clichéd and showed just what a difficult environ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 09:55, 06 February 2014 | Report This Post

Zero Dark Hurty.

The film had spent the best part of two hours convincing me that Seal Team 10 were dedicated, loyal, determined, and human; so playing a string-quartet version of Bowie's Heroes over an extended photo-montage of the actual team seemed a little more mawkish than sincere. Less 'hearts and minds' and more 'preaching to the choir', Lone Survivor feels like a great film trying to burst out of a dramatised reconstruction. FYI, Mr Berg, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive… ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 23:59, 05 February 2014 | Report This Post

That reads like a two star review to me, and I think it's a two star film for all the reasons James specifies. Yes, the action is good, but it's politics and sentimentality are bullshit. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Osric at 18:31, 05 February 2014 | Report This Post

Lone Survivor

I was shocked how much I enjoyed it! stared with same old american cheese..bad. Then got extremely good with awesome fighting scenes ( the falling was like something i have never seen before... awesome) and ended just good. But i was really enjying wahlbergs performances. I loved it xx ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ruddick at 17:29, 05 February 2014 | Report This Post

Interesting reactions

There's so many mixed reactions to this movie already on this feed and having read them I have a tendency to agree with certain aspects of all of them. I enjoyed the movie mostly, although there would have been considerably more tension if it wasn't called Lone Survivor with an opening shot of the survivor been flown to safety. The shoot out was great, but as tysmuse said there was an element of ill-preparedness for no reason. Why not have a back up unit close by? And how about making sure yo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sebby6000 at 15:04, 05 February 2014 | Report This Post


good film 3 stars you are having a laugh lone ranger 5 anybody if not directed by thier pals no chance of decent review total sychophants to speilberg jackson et all ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rulookn atme at 13:07, 03 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: letdown

People are bound to go on about how it's biased or propagandistic or jingoistic, but I really don't care. As a piece of cinema, I think this one of the finest war films of the last few decades. Completely gripping, strikingly realistic, totally believable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 23:17, 01 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: letdown

An amazing accomplishment in cinema. When you see the cover and the name you might think it's just your typical war movie, but it's definitely not. It's filled with emotion and drama. The dedication of the actors to this productions is simply mind-blowing. All the guys did a great job, mainly I was impressed with Ben Foster, that dude evolves every single time we see him on the big screen. Watch the movie, it's an experience you won't forget soon! ... More

Posted by WolfofWallStreet at 20:17, 01 February 2014 | Report This Post


This is my first review but i felt compelled to register my interest: I'm no war expert (i work in an office) but i looked forward to this movie given the cast and director (i liked the kingdom, hancock and friday night lights) but this movie is sooooooooo bad. some nice shots and performances but really sentimental with the same soundtrack as FNL, overtly pandering to these poor bastards who got caught up in this.......with slow mo death shots, michael bay sunsets and caricature afghans ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pauliedickhead at 23:06, 31 January 2014 | Report This Post

Bizarre story.

OK, given that this is a true story, this will probably come across as incredibly churlish and insensitive. But throughout the whole story, things kept happening that seem to portray America as incredibly incompetent and ill prepared. When they find the goat herders. Why did the let them go like that? Why didn't the just tie them up to a tree? or knock them out? or steal their shoes? break their radio? tie their shoelaces together? It just seemed like such an odd decision to allow them to run... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 19:55, 31 January 2014 | Report This Post

brave brave men

A geat film about men who talk the talk and also walk the walk the taliban are bully cowards these guys are the true warriors , and the good villagers show us that we must never make the mistake of tainting everyone with the same brush . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mcgee at 18:45, 28 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Lone Survivor

Atrocious neocon propaganda. Avoid. ... More

Posted by spamandham at 12:19, 28 January 2014 | Report This Post

I agree with Empire . One of the most authentic gun scenes I have seen on screen . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jezy at 12:33, 27 January 2014 | Report This Post

semper fi

Excellent performances and the best war/action scenes since black hawk down. Forget about the politics and you have an extremely enjoyable war flick . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by josh the movie leg at 19:31, 23 January 2014 | Report This Post


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