Based on the book of the same name by ex-soldier Marcus Luttrell (played here by Mark Wahlberg), ‘Lone Survivor’ recalls a failed 2005 mission in Afghanistan, when four US Navy Seals were tasked with finding a head Taliban honcho. After some pedestrian scene-setting, ‘Lone Survivor’ hits its stride as the mission begins. Whatever the moral implications of presenting extreme physical destruction as entertainment, few films can lay claim to such a sustained, technically impressive rendering of the consequences of combat on the human body. Its most bracing scene, bolstered by appallingly realistic stunt work and effects, sees the Seals tumble down a seemingly endless hill.
‘Lone Survivor’ isn’t always sophisticated. Some of the dialogue is unbearably cheesy, while the use of real-life footage is manipulative. But there’s moral complexity as the Seals clash on ethical grounds, and a climax in an Afghan village which is tense and surprisingly moving. Neither an anti-war tract nor a jingoistic rallying cry, the brutal but humane ‘Lone Survivor’ instead registers as a howl of despair for so many young men and women lost in war. Ashley Clark