Working from Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s true-life account of an ill-fated 2005 mission (Operation Red Wings) to take out a notorious Taliban commander in north-eastern Afghanistan, Peter Berg’s ferocious re-staging is part Oscar-baiting drama, part Hollywood action movie.
Mark Wahlberg plays Luttrell, leader of a four-man team (Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch) entering hazardous terrain to capture or kill Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami). Encountering a small group of shepherds in the mountains, and blighted by faulty comms equipment, the marines soon find themselves hopelessly outnumbered and retreating before a wall of bullets.
Berg previously directed Battleship and The Kingdom so it should come as no surprise that the combat scenes are fast, furious and incredibly LOUD, with men, rocks and scrub torn apart by continual gunfire and each gaping wound giving halt to the ricocheting camera like it’s been loaned from Eli Roth.
Still, there’s an immediacy and veracity to the action that’ll have you gasping, and the men’s courage in the scorch of battle is not to be doubted. This mid-section is, at pounding heart, a platoon movie in the tradition of 1949’s Battleground, Black Hawk Down and Oliver Stone’s 1986 Oscar winner, more about fraternal commitment than national politics.
Of course, being a Berg picture there are also missteps and a crushing lack of subtlety, most notably towards the end credits. If you want your war-on-terror films with moral murkiness, watch Zero Dark Thirty. If you fancy slo-mo and rock guitars, give this a go.
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