'Lone Survivor': What the Critics Are Saying

5:59 PM PST 01/10/2014 by THR staff

The Mark Wahlberg film from director Peter Berg has received largely positive reviews, with THR's Todd McCarthy writing "Berg's work here is at the top of his range."

Lone Survivor, from director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg, tells the true story of a Navy SEALs raid in Afghanistan that went very wrong. Based on a memoir by Marcus Luttrell, the only man to survive the operation, the film is poised to win the box office in its opening weekend, with observers predicting it will take in $34 million.

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Also starring Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster, Lone Survivor has received largely positive reviews and holds a 73 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Hollywood Reporter chief film critic Todd McCarthy wrote: "Berg's work here is at the top of his range, as previously displayed in Friday Night Lights and his other Middle East-set film, The Kingdom, and a far cry from his cringe-worthy most recent outing, Battleship, even though his key collaborators -- cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler, editor Colby Parker Jr. and composer Steve Jablonsky -- carry over from that job. The film is rugged, skilled, relentless, determined, narrow-minded and focused, everything that a soldier must be when his life is on the line."

He also praised the actors for bringing intensity to their work: "Wahlberg, at 42, is significantly older than Luttrell (29 at the time) or any of the 19 killed in the incident, but he still has the right stuff to convince the audience as a tough and super-fit SEAL whose breaking point is far beyond the norm. Kitsch, Foster and Hirsch are fully on the same page of intensity, which is the main requirement here beyond physicality."

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Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey wrote that the director succeeded in finding "the right war to fight and the right cast to fight it." She added: "Berg has said he felt pressure to properly honor the lives of the real men of Red Wings, and the weight of that responsibility can be felt in every frame. When a sort of cinematic jingoism threatens, the nuances of the performances help pull things back. And the roll call of the fallen at the end feels exactly right."

A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote the film doesn't focus on larger political implications -- and that's perfectly OK: "The defining trait of Lone Survivor -- with respect to both its characters and Mr. Berg's approach to them -- is professionalism. It is a modest, competent, effective movie, concerned above all with doing the job of explaining how the job was done. Afterward, you may want to think more about reasons and consequences, about global and domestic politics, but while the fight is going on, you are absorbed in the mechanics of survival."

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr didn't view the film so highly, writing that the "rousing, shallow, well-made film may be hell to sit through, but it's part of a long Hollywood tradition of commemorative combat films -- soldiers' stories that grieve for fallen brothers and find hard, simple truths in notions of sacrifice and courage."

The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan criticized the film as "a loud and grinding affair, seemingly as intent on wearing down its audience as the Taliban is on the film's heroes." He added:  "At times, the violence is so unrelenting and fierce that it's hard to believe that there's anyone left alive, let alone with any bullets left to fire. What's missing here is something, or rather, someone to care about."

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