Friday, January 10, 2014

When Choosing Wisely Doesn't Work Out

We make choices everyday.  Most of them are banal and inconsequential, like where to eat lunch, what music to listen to on the drive into work, or what pair of underpants to wear.  (I vote for the clean ones.)  No matter what our are choices are, we all have to deal with the repercussions, no matter how unpleasant they may be.  Lone Survivor is a movie that renders that point in beautifully bloody fashion.

The Lone Survivor story goes a little like this: a team of Navy Seals (played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) go on a op deep behind enemy lines.  Things go pear-shaped when a trio of goat herders stumble across them.  Our heroes are left with a choice: kill goat herders and violate the rules of engagement or let them go and get swamped by hostiles.  They let them go, and soon the bullets are flying as the Seals battle for their lives.

First things first: I don't really care for war movies.  A lot of them seem (at least to me) to be more about how the American military kicks ass because they can blow their enemies to tiny bits than about anything actually important.  Thankfully, Lone Survivor turns out to be about more than violence and blowing sh*t up and looking all bad ass doing it.  It's about getting cornered in an impossible situation and having to Make a choice.  It's about how making the right decision doesn't always lead to happiness.  Sometimes making the right choice leads to an ocean of crap.

I was pretty impressed with the acting in Lone Survivor.  Not so much Mr. Wahlberg and Mr. Foster.  I've seen those guys be excellent in other roles.  But Mr. Hirsh and, especially, Mr. Kitsch are particularly impressive cuz I haven't seen them pull something like this off.  I've only seen Hirsch in stupid comedies, so it's nice to see he's got range.  And poor Mr. Kitsch has been in so many lame roles (Gambit, John Carter) it's nice to see him get a good character and kick ass playing him.  Hopefully, this is the beginning of something big for him, cuz I have renewed faith in his abilities.

The action was crushingly tense.  Director Peter Berg chooses to keep us with our heroes and turns the enemy into ominous, rapidly moving shapes.  While dehumanizing the enemy usually robs a film of depth, in Lone Survivor we're supposed to be in the heads of the Seals, seeing what they see, and feeling what they feel.  The sound design helps a lot with that, leaving us in a fog of pinging bullets and booming RPGs (not role playing games, guys).  There's an awesome moment that made me jump and, if I'm honest, I'm still a little shaken by it.  That's all I'mma say about that.

I loved this movie, but it's so shatteringly intense that I'm not in a hurry to go see it again.  Don't let that stop you from seeing it.  It's the best war movie I've seen since The Hurt Locker, and it's about a lot more than just blowing stuff up.  Horns up, guys.  Way, way up.

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