When I first saw previews for Peter Berg’s latest film, Lone Survivor, I rolled my eyes. Here’s another balls-out, flag waving, chest-beating patriotic film where a bunch of actors play American soldiers in exaggerated and over-blown situations where the terrorists die and a bunch a cheesy stuff is said.
But that was viciously prejudice of me and it’s a shame a lot of people sear that mindset into their brains before watching what actually ends up being a crafty anti-war film. I tend to not indulge in saturated patriotism, and while the trailers gave that impression for Lone Survivor, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not watching the film with an open mind.
Yes, there is a lot of flag waving and American chest-beating in Lone Survivor; you’re patriotic sweet tooth will ache at times. But not ever military film can be Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory or Oliver Stone’s Platoon. To eye roll at the over-the-top patriotism is to miss the point trying to made about being an American solider.
If you play football for a certain team, you’re draped in their logo and their apparel all the time. American soldiers, for lack of a less cliché comparison, are playing for the ultimate Team USA, so their hung-ho patriotism is part of the act. You don’t volunteer to kill and die for your country unless you love your country, so after you relax those liberal muscles like I did, the film starts to come together through objective eyes.
But while you’d expect the film to be a chest-beating anthem for the military, Berg flips the script and gives us what can only be described as a conservative’s anti-war film. That sounds like an oxymoron but it’s true. The film builds up this crew of soldiers to be a bunch of Gods walking amongst men, who are going to take out a Taliban leader and come home to a heroes welcome.
That doesn’t happen as the veil of macho patriotism is shot down, blown up and maimed in every sense imaginable. The comparisons to Saving Private Ryan are a bit much, but after seeing the film you’ll understand where people are coming from when they use such a comparison.
The performances are great, as Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch all balance their macho-ness with vulnerability and tenderness. They go from being gung-ho killing machines to terrified yet composed human beings at the drop of a hat. That’s what helps keep this from being a Rambo style cheesefest, as while you may roll your eyes at some of the flag waving, you find yourself with a lump in your throat as these men fight for their lives.
That’s really the point of Lone Survivor as Berg crafts a film that really everyone can invest in. It shows both sides of the war coin as chest beating patriotism is countered with the fact that these guys have been forgotten, written off and left for dead by the country their protecting.
It’s not an instant classic like Saving Private Ryan and it’s not a vigorous anti-war statement like Paths of Glory or Platoon. But Lone Survivor is up there and deserves to be seen with an open mind.