War IIís iconic war movies were A Walk in the Sun (1945) and
Battleground (1949). For the time, they were impressive pieces of
work. But what they didnít do was to capture the intensity and violence
of battle. They were a lot of talk and not a lot of action. And what
action there was was mostly noise and shots of actors feigning being
shot. What neither had were blood and the realistic violence of a battle
to the death.
on the other hand, really and truly captures the horror and finality of
real battle. The first hour constitutes the setup of an ambush conducted
by U.S. Navy SEALS on a bad Taliban (pardon the redundancy) leader,
notorious Ahmad Shah.
filmís credit it devotes a relatively small, but eye-opening, amount of
time to what SEALs have to go through to get accepted. That ordeal is
fascinating and almost worth the price of admission, leading to an
incredible amount of respect for the men who make the grade.
film then introduces the four SEALS as they get ready for the planned
attack. Then things go terribly wrong and the last hour is a tense
battle for survival.
battle is not just intense; itís graphic and bloody, although it avoids
the sensationalism that less talented directors feel obligated to insert
in terms of graphic, stomach-turning scenes. This is war and itís what
our fighting men face every time they venture forth in Afghanistan.
Brilliantly written and directed by Peter Berg from the autobiographical
book by Marcus Luttrel and Patrick Robinson, the technical aspects of
the film are astonishing. Berg gets wonderful performances by Mark
Wahlberg (Lutrell), Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and Taylor Kitsch as the
four SEALS, all of whom went through SEALs-type training for several
weeks. Although clearly not as rigorous as what real SEALs applicants
must endure, it was still rough.
mention must be made of four-time Emmy winner Gregory Nicotero and
Oscarģ-winner Howard Berger, who were responsible for the amazing
special makeup effects that showed all the wounds the SEALs suffered during the battle, which
were many, severe, and, in three cases, fatal. In fact, the makeup was
one of the more important aspects of the movie outside of the acting.
Filmmakers shouldnít have spoilers in the title, for heavenís sake, even
if the film is based on a best-selling book and the filmmakers assume
everyone knows what happened. Everybody doesnít. Worse, I wish that the
title didnít telegraph the ending because I think the deaths would have
been far more shocking had they been unanticipated. As it is, the
viewer, who might not have any knowledge of Lutrell or his book, knows
exactly what happened, especially since the opening scene is of Lutrell
as he is rescued. Why telegraph the ending? Itís like making a whodunit
but telling the audience whodunit in the title or the opening scene.
said, even though one knows the outcome from the get-go itís not enough
to ruin the movie because it is so well done. This is a movie that stays
with you long after you leave the theater.