Under the Radar

'Lone Survivor' Comes to Home Video

Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is out this week on Blu-ray and DVD. The movie is based on former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s best-selling memoir about the 2005 Operation Redwing in Afghanistan. The movie, directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, was a gigantic hit in the United States, grossing over $125 million on a reported $40 million budget.

Marcus Luttrell and Peter Berg (Photo: Mark Kanwati)

Marcus Luttrell and Peter Berg (Photo: Mark Kanwati)

Berg and Luttrell appeared at the GI Film Festival in Alexandria, VA over Memorial Day weekend, where Berg presented Luttrell with the GI Hero Award during the festival’s award ceremony. The organization also recognized Marine veteran Adam Driver with its 2014 GIFF Veterans in Entertainment for his roles in Girls, Inside Llewyn Davis and Lincoln and Michelle Monahagan appeared on behalf of the upcoming movie Fort Bliss, which won Best Narrative Feature.

Berg talked to Military.com about how his work on Lone Survivor connected him to the military and veteran community and Luttrell talked about the film's impact on his work with the Lone Survivor Foundation.

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It's notable that the movie comes out on Blu-ray at this exact moment, a time when we're all debating notions of honor and duty after the negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. A far larger audience (first via disc and Redbox, then cable and finally Memorial Day and Veterans Day TV showings for generations to come) is about to encounter Berg's take on the book, a movie where all politics fade into the background and the focus is on the SEAL brotherhood and its sense of mission. It's about four guys trapped on a mountain, the determination of the men back at the base to get them back and, ultimately, about Luttrell's mission to honor the memory of the nineteen men killed during the mission.

Marcus Luttrell and Peter Berg (Photo: Mark Kanwati)

The four lead actors (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster) carry out their roles with a sense of mission, with Foster giving an especially powerful performance. Nothing ever gets too solemn or serious: a lot of the emotional weight later in the film has been set up by the lighthearted  guys-hanging-out-at-the-FOB scenes at the beginning. The SEAL deaths on the mountain are remarkably abrupt and the helicopter crash happens almost in passing. The fact that no one dies a glamorous movie death only heightens the sacrifices these men make.

The Blu ray features an outstanding documentary about how the cast and crew filmed the mountainside battle sequence that’s at the film’s heart. There’s a lot of justifiable pride from everyone on display. The spectacular sequence doesn’t rely on the kind of CGI tricks that populate almost every action scene in every other film. That may be because they didn’t have the budget for that kind of extensive post-production work, but the result is one of the best battle scenes ever in a film.

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Those of you who complained that the movie was different than the book should take a look at all of the extras: Marcus Luttrell not only blessed Peter Berg's take on his story, he was on set for a big part of the shoot and even appears in a non-speaking role in the movie.

Marcus Luttrell and Peter Berg (Photo: Mark Kanwati)

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