Lone Survivor is a harrowing tale of human courage and endurance

by Mark Burger

Lone Survivor is a first-rate big-screen rendering of the illfated Operation Red Wings, a Navy SEAL mission in 2005 designed to eliminate Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), a Taliban operative at large in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Not unlike last year’s Zero Dark Thirty and Black  Hawk Down (2001), the film depicts the military in wholly credible fashion, and not unlike Black Hawk Down, Lone Survivor depicts a mission gone wrong, through no fault of the soldiers. Whether it’s faulty equipment or incorrect intelligence (Shah has brought an entire army with him), the soldiers are thrust in harm’s way throughout the film.

Mark Wahlberg (also a producer), Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster are the principal quartet of SEALs assigned to the mission, and their camaraderie is effortlessly established from the outset. Once again, Wahlberg maneuvers comfortably within an ensemble framework, allowing his co-stars (especially Foster, who’s terrific) ample opportunity to develop their characters and their relationship to each other.

The film’s combat sequences are ferociously effective and among the best in recent memory, with Tobias Schliesser’s cinematography and Colby Parker Jr.’s editing conveying the intensity and immediacy of armed conflict in harrowing, grueling fashion.

Lone Survivor also marks a nice turnaround for Kitsch and screenwriter/ director Peter Berg, whose previous collaboration was the much-maligned 2012 turkey Battleship. This time, however, Berg has utilized the military framework with far superior results. There are a few jingoistic, MTV-style moments, and the film’s climax is a bit protracted, but all told this is a forceful tale told in powerhouse fashion, as well as a fitting tribute to men in combat.

Lone Survivor opens Friday.