The New Yorker (January 6, 2014)
Peter Berg’s exciting but harrowing “Lone Survivor” re-stages a military operation in Afghanistan from 2005. Four members of a Navy seal team are cut off in Taliban territory but continue to fight, in treacherously rocky terrain, and despite multiple wounds. It’s a patriotic homage to the toughness and endurance of an élite force, embodied here by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch.
The movie doesn’t explicitly ask what the American forces are doing in Afghanistan. Yet there’s a fierce debate among the men about how to handle some goatherds they take prisoner, which effectively interrogates the purpose of fighting against a guerrilla group lodged in a native population.
The heart of the movie, however, is combat: specifically, a long sequence that has been shot with much greater attention to spatial organization—where one soldier is in relation to another as they fire—than filmmakers, in the past, have given such scenes. The sequence, as the men get hit, is also more explicit about wounds, blood, and suffering. “Lone Survivor” will not please people exasperated by an endless war, but it’s an achievement nonetheless.
by David Denby