Film Review: Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor

Peter Berg’s rendition of a true story is brutally violent. Lone Survivor is a surprising survival story, but not a wholly compelling one.

Marcus Luttrell, a Navy Seal, is part of a small team on a mission to capture al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd. When they encounter an unexpected obstacle, the team are left to fight for their lives…

There is no escaping the fact that Lone Survivor is an incredibly military heavy film. Peter Berg’s latest is in the same vein as the director’s last film Battleship. Lone Survivor is littered with military language, that presumably intends to convey a sense of realism.

The film concentrates on the mission of four soldiers and the outcome that ensues when they are forced to make a pivotal decision. Viewers are not given much to get their teeth into in terms of the antagonist they are attempting to capture. Instead, Lone Survivor concentrates on what happens to these soldiers, with Marcus Luttrell at the centre of the action. The film would have felt more rounded if they audience were offered some background on his helpers later in the film, rather than a brief mention prior to the end credits.

This is just one aspect that makes Lone Survivor unequivocally pro-American military. Berg’s film has a similar feel to Act of Valour. There is no real space for alternative interpretation; Lone Survivor lacks the nuance to question US army actions, eschewing a balanced approach in favour of a categorical endorsement of the American military. The sequence of images before the end credits feel like a cynical ploy to draw emotion rather than the sincere tribute it should have been. This segment would have been more effective if it was shorter.

The handheld camera works well in the action sequences, but feels unnecessary in early scenes. The sound in Lone Survivor is used to great effect. Mark Wahlberg offers a competent performance as Luttrell, but it is the type of performance he has delivered before. Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster provide good support.

Lone Survivor will appeal to those who enjoy depictions of contemporary military combat. Other viewers may not be quite so enthralled.

Film Review: Act of Valour

Act of Valour functions as a propaganda video for the Navy SEALs. The dedication to realism at times takes precedence over the crucial need for an engaging story and characters.

When a CIA operative is kidnapped, a group of Navy SEALs are tasked with the mission to rescue her. What they find leads them to a terrorist plot. The same Navy SEALs must go on a mission to garner intelligence and foil the plot which threatens the lives of innocent citizens…

Filmed using real SEALs as the main cast, Act of Valour aims for realism in its depiction of combat sequences and military operations. In this function, the film is successful. These sequences do appear more authentic than those in other action films. Moreover, there is a real emphasis on preparation for attack, relying on strategy rather than just fire power.

This emphasis on realism comes at the expense of the narrative, however. The plot is fairly predictable, which would not be a problem in itself if the narrative was more engaging. Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh’s film lacks panache, every sequence others what you would expect, and little more. This is confounded by the fact that the main characters are one-dimensional. It is hard to summon the will to care with the minimal characterisation.

The staunchly pro-military, American pride theme that permeates the entire film will be a little off-putting for those viewers who do not share this mindset. The film is unequivocal in its support of military action, depicting Americans as the ones who take on terrorists and save the day. Act of Valour concentrates on pride, and offers the positive expression of military action without focusing on any other consequences of this.

Some of the dialogue is little more than exposition. The exchanges feel stilted, which is not helped by the actors. The SEALs who star in the film clearly do not have the acting training required for a big screen role. Elsewhere, Act of Valour is reminiscent of Michael Bay films, with its use of slow motion for dramatic effect.

Whilst the film should be praised for providing more authentic scenes featuring military action, the lack of attention paid to narrative and character concerns make Act of Valour ultimately unsatisfying.

Act of Valour is released on Blu-Ray and DVD on 16th July 2012.