Runtime: 110 Mins
Not much was expected of this movie, at least with people who’d heard that Peter Berg was on board to direct. That man also directed Battleship (2012). C’mon now, ’nuff said. Combine that with Mark Wahlberg… not good. There’s also the little matter of support for the war in the States being at an all time low, projected to be at around 18%. So you’d think that the movie would bomb financially and be less than well handled, not very good in its own right. Well so far we don’t know about that box office return, but the good news is that Berg has made an excellent war movie – the first good ‘War in Afghanistan’ movie maybe?
This story focuses on Operation Red Wings in which a high profile Taliban leader was targeted by the Coalition. A SEAL recce team of four was placed in a forward position near the suspect’s hideout, only to be compromised by an a goat herder. They let him go rather than killing him, despite knowing the consequences. And those consequences were fierce – the team and their QRF (quick reaction force) being all but wiped out. Ergo one lone survivor. The story is handled pretty efficiently – we briefly get to know the team, then the remainder of the movie focuses on their ordeal. Now some ‘critics’ have lamented an alleged lack of character development and too much war and action in this movie. And? What else were they expecting? Trust the trendy leftist media to bellyache about war appearing in a movie about, funnily enough, war.
Before talking about the strongest point of the movie, time to talk about the worst. Mark Wahlberg. In between attacking and blinding old homeless men, this dimwit has been known to find employment as an actor. I’ll never understand how this happened, but it’s a problem. He can’t act – Mark Wahlberg is a disservice to every movie he appears in. But it’s worse than usual here, not only is he doing what he always does, playing Mark Wahlberg and not a given character, he’s also too old for the role. Marcus Luttrell was 29 during Operation Red Wings. Mark Wahlberg is 42, and looks 45. Operation Red Wings was 8.5 years ago, so even 8.5 years later Luttrell is still almost five years younger. If they insisted on an older man doing the role, it should’ve been Eric Bana, who is wasted as their QRF commander in a support role. At least he can act.
Where this movie really excels though, and what has proven to be its saving grace – its combat scenes. It’s like Peter Berg looked at shaking cam movies and said this is exactly what I’m NOT going to do. Berg’s directing is steady, flat and calm. Even the scenes where the men tumble down cliff-faces resist the urge to shake things up, each fall and bump is filmed and edited brutally yet clearly properly, with real stuntmen. You can see what happens, these action sequences certainly remind us we’re not in the 00’s anymore. In fact, they’re fucking beautiful.
A movie that survives the Wahlberg disease and proves that Berg is not the hack most feared. Jingoism? Jingoism is good!