Lone Survivor DVD Review

DVD Review by Jon E Clist
Lone Survivor

The Premise
Marcus Luttrell, a Navy Seal, and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd, in late June 2005. After running into mountain herders and capturing them, they were left with no choice but to follow their rules of engagement or be imprisoned. Now Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.
The Review
I thoroughly enjoy war movies, particularly when they are based on a true story. I think it is the tension that is born from adversity and war is certainly one of the key forms of adversity in our history. You could say that I have been supercharged to see Lone Survivor. Bringing together one of my favourite actors covering an inspiring story of heroic activities. Wahlberg is a wonderful actor and although he started off in the more cheese-ball kind of roles he has shown himself to be a great dramatic actor. He brings this character to life in a very subtle manner that helps to connect you with the story.

However this is a triumph for the Director Peter Berg, for whom this was a labour of love. Lone Survivor was made relatively cheaply by writer/director Peter Berg who worked very hard to make it happen over five years. Involved only a 42-day shoot and $40 million budget. Stars Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg worked at a discount, as did Berg, for the mandatory Directors Guild minimum salary of $17,000 a week. it all began for Berg when he read the memoir alone in one sitting at a locked conference room during the production of Hancock back in 2008. From this moment he knew it was a film that he wanted to make.
Prior to writing the script, Berg met with the families of the deceased. “My research started with meeting the families of the SEAL teammates who were killed", he said. "I went to New York and met the Murphys. I went to Colorado and met the Dietzes, and I went to Northern California and met the Axelsons. After spending time with them, you realize that these kids were the best and the brightest; they were the stars of the families. The grief and the wounds are still very raw. You would have to be inhuman to not feel the responsibility when that kind of grief gets shared with you."  
Berg also expressed that he was motivated by the families to make the story as realistic as possible; his goal was "to put the viewer into the experience of what these guys went through. And it was obviously a traumatic and violent and exhausting experience"
 
Sure there are elements to the film that didn’t happen in real life and there are moments in the real story that don’t make it onto the big screen. You have to make sure that a film is still engaging and sometimes history will end up being re-written to ensure a good flow and energy to  a film. However it is in the small things that Berg worked hard to bring about the realism. To provide authenticity, Luttrell moved into Berg’s home for one month, and acted as a consultant, ensuring that Berg understood the events that unfolded during Operation Red Wings. Berg also embedded with a Navy SEAL team—becoming the first civilian to do so—and lived with them for a month in Iraq while continuing to write the script. In re-enacting the injuries and deaths of the fallen SEAL servicemen, Berg relied on Luttrell's eyewitness accounts from the book, as well as autopsy reports of the deceased and after action reports.

The United States Navy gave him unprecedented access to incident reports related to the mission, and provided the production with archive military training footage, which is shown during the film's opening credits sequence.  Still photographs shown during the sequence were taken from Richard D. Schoenberg's war photography book The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday: Making Navy SEALs. I think that when watching the film the real training footage at the beginning kind of didn’t fully feel as though it fitting and yet in hindsight knowing that it was real actual footage and something that you normally would not be allowed to see is something rather special. Perhaps they could have clearly noted that on screen to help accentuate it.

I think that when I saw the trailer and figured out what this film was about, I did not expect it to be as gritty and graphic as it was. However this is war and blood gets shed, so it is a necessary element to this film that helps to make it more believable. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The Verdict
Gritty, realistic, moving and a great story of survival amidst insane odds.
The Trailer
The Info
Releases: 4th June 2014
Rating: R16 - Contains Violence, offensive language & content that may offend
Duration: 121 minutes
Genre:  Action
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Ludwig, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Jerry Ferrara
Director: Peter Berg (Battleship, Hancock, The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights)


RRP: DVD $39.99 Blu-Ray $49.99
The Extras
Marcus Luttrell (The movie is based on his story) appears in the movie playing a small role. At about the 12:30 mark of the movie he's the SEAL that spills the coffee and tells the rookie to clean it up. Marcus is credited as 'Navy Seal (uncredited)'. His character is 'Frank' or 'Frankie'. He appears again on the helicopter which was sent to rescue the team and subsequently shot down, killing all aboard.
 
Though it is not mentioned in the movie Luttrell was personally awarded the Navy Cross by (then) President George W. Bush. Lieutenant Michael Murphy would be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Actual military veterans were used in the film to fulfill extra and acting roles.
A long list of investors willing to chip in at least a million dollars to make the movie were each rewarded with the credit of 'producer'.
 
Gregory "Rocky" Rockwood was one of the crewmembers awarded the 2004 Mackay Trophy for the "most meritorious flight of the year" by an Air Force person, persons, or organization. Jolly 11 and Jolly 12 crewmembers distinguished themselves by gallantry in connection with rescue operations near Kharbut, Iraq, on 16 April 2004. While supporting of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Jolly 11 Flight launched to rescue a five person crew of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook that crashed in a sandstorm with near zero-visibility. En route to the crash scene, crews realized their forward looking infra-red and night vision goggles were ineffective. Despite this handicap the crew of Jolly 11 was able to locate the survivors. Both aircraft then made near zero-visibility approaches relying nearly exclusively on the flight engineers and aerial gunners inputs for precision navigation. Following the successful survivor contacts and recovery by the Flight's Pararescuemen, Jolly 11 and Jolly 12 were individually engaged by separate multiple surface-to-air missiles attacks. Using evasive maneuvers Jolly 11 evaded two missiles. Both Jolly 11 and Jolly 12 continued to provide support with defensive fire until the formation was clear of the threat area saving the lives of five U.S. Army personnel.
Peter Berg had planned to make this film before Battleship (2012), but Universal Pictures wanted him to reverse the priorities, and he relented.