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Barely surviving

OUT NOW! Navy Seal vs. Taliban gun battle film LONE SURVIVOR may go some way to sooth US war guilt but ultimately lapses into cliché.

How many Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks down does the US need to see to vindicate its involvement in Afghanistan – and other post 9/11 theatres?

If this ‘based on a true story’ tale of four Navy Seals and their abortive attempt to take out a Taliban leader in the country’s northeastern province is anything to go by, there’s some to come before we’ll get more films in the vein of 2009’s excellent The Messenger – also starring Ben Foster.

For now, this step-by-step account of the hours leading up to a minutely observed 30-minute gun battle between four Americans and some two dozen Taliban strains for the harrowing reality check of what-it-takes: the camaraderie, the competitive fitness and an admission, during the film’s opening sequences, that men who choose battle have darkness in them.

When that darkness comes for some (in extreme close-up), it’s brutally framed shock and awe, convincingly executed and witnessed by Wahlberg, the titular survivor, who merges solidarity and a killer instinct. It’s the morality discussion on collateral damage and the closing scenes of anti-Tali Afghan solidarity with the US that feel superfluous: the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Lone Survivor | Directed by Peter Berg (USA 2013) with Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hisch, Ben Foster. Starts March 20

Originally published in issue #125, March 2014.