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Eric C’s Lone Survivor (Film) Review: I (Almost) Loved This Movie

(To read all of our Lone Survivor posts, please click here.)

Before I start my review of Lone Survivor (film), I have some caveats:

- First, the one, lingering problem with the Lone Survivor film is that it will lead people to read the Lone Survivor book. You know how we feel about that.

- Second, the movie is about Navy SEALs, the “quiet professionals” who have way too much publicity. Expect more posts on this next year.

- Third, Michael C hasn’t seen the film, so their could be glaring military inaccuracies I would miss.

That said, I’ll get straight my thesis: I loved Lone Survivor until the ending. I think Lone Survivor is one of the greatest war films ever made, with brutal, excruciating action sequences and great acting. But the ending is so egregiously wrong and over-the-top, I almost can’t recommend it.

Some specifics. Peter Berg shot the action very realistically, with the SEALs sighting their enemies through their rifles and taking them down systematically and professionally. I’ve never seen this type of directing before, and it absolutely works. It’s the type of war film that will make past war films--even the great ones--look dated.

As the battle gets more intense, so does the pain you feel. To escape their attackers, the SEALs literally jump off a cliff. Their falls are some of the best, most-realistic and brutal sequences I’ve ever seen on film. Literally, the audience I watched it with cringed with each fall. It makes you physically move in your chair. On the basis of these sequences alone, I would recommend the film.

What else can I write? The film looks gorgeous, shot with small, handheld cameras but not in a way that brings attention to itself. The acting is tremendous, particularly Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch, who just nail their scenes. I’m not a huge Mark Wahlberg fan, but he’s good in this role.

Technically, the film is a masterpiece.


But the ending is horrendous, for reasons I’ll describe later in a much longer post. Peter Berg essentially made up the ending. He took an already inaccurate book, corrected most of those mistakes, then got to the end and was like, “Screw it, I’m making something up.” And the changes are cliched and ridiculous.

I’d recommend seeing Lone Survivor when it airs on cable. But when Marcus Luttrell gets rescued after the firefight, you can press stop, and watch something else. As Michael C pointed out to me, it’s like the inverse Zero Dark Thirty. (We recommend skipping the first hour of that film.)

So yes, Lone Survivor is an incredible, but flawed, piece of filmmaking.

twelve comments

In that scene where they sight down the rifles and take down the enemies, was that in fight where the three got killed? I don’t remember they got anybody during that fight. Am I remembering wrong?

@ Carl – in the book?

Eric C:

No, I never read the book. I mean in real life. In Victory Point the author never mentioned that the SEAL team got anybody.

Even the scenery is impressive, but I’d like Michael’s take on accuracy.

Hey, man. Great little preliminary review. I can’t wait to watch it. I have nothing against “quiet professionals” like Navy SEALs, they are a bunch of hard motherfuckers no doubt. But I do agree that ‘they’ are receiving way too much theatrical exposure. I mean, the general public probably doesn’t want to watch lengthy presence patrols taking friendly KIAs in sudden IED blasts and pants-pissing firefights any way.

By the way, the picture posted above really ratfucked my page layout.

Austin, we’re going to try to repost your picture but get the formatting right. It was blowing out the sides of our html.

Austin, I can’t get it to work, but we’ll try later tonight.

Is this picture better? Sorry for the first one.


Versus an actual Afghan forest.


I don’t understand. You said “He took an already inaccurate book, corrected most of those mistakes….” How can you say someone who was actually there wrote an inaccurate book….?

CJ – the book has some huge inaccuracies compared with what actually happened. The book was also ghost-written by a military FICTION writer, all while Luttrell was deployed in Iraq. The ghostwriter really exaggerated things and got a lot of details wrong.

See: http://onviolence.com/?e=762