Lone Survivor (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 9-Jul-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Will of the Warrior
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Bringing the Story to Light
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Recreating the Firefight
Featurette-Learning the Basics
Featurette-The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings
Featurette-The Pashtun Code of Life
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 121:24
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Berg
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Mark Wahlberg
Taylor Kitsch
Ben Foster
Alexander Ludwig
Emile Hirsch
Eric Bana
Yousuf Azami
Ali Suliman
Rich Ting
Dan Bilzerian
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Explosions in the Sky
Steve Jablonsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The last time director Peter Berg attempted a contemporary war picture, the result was 2007’s The Kingdom, an average-at-best action film kneecapped by its overt patriotism and wobbly execution. Added to this, the rest of Berg’s résumé fails to inspire much confidence, with titles ranging from serviceable (Welcome to the Jungle) to interminable (Battleship, Hancock). How pleasantly surprising and refreshing, then, to witness 2013’s Lone Survivor, which is arguably Berg’s best movie. Based on  a tragic true-life story, this is a powerful, harrowing war movie, permeated with enough gravitas and emotion to emerge as one of the year’s most impressive motion picture achievements. It’s very much the cousin of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, as it depicts a disastrous military operation with a violent, boots-on-the-ground sensibility.

    In mid-2005, a military operation known as Red Wings went into effect. The objective was to find and apprehend Taliban leader Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), who was responsible for a number of military casualties in the Middle East. As part of the operation, a four-man team of Navy SEALs - Marcus Luttrell (Marl Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) - are sent to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. Bonding while dealing with their respective personal issues, the men are thrown a curveball when a few locals stumble into view just as their communications equipment cuts out. Without a line to home base, the men decide to cut the locals loose as they retreat to higher ground in a bid to restore communications. Before long, Taliban forces swarm the area, leaving the four men stranded as they battle hundreds of armed soldiers while attempting to get a clear line to their commanding officer back at base (Eric Bana).

    Reportedly, Universal were unwilling to finance Lone Survivor unless Berg directed Battleship for the studio, which perhaps explains why that blockbuster was so slipshod. In a satisfyingly ironic twist, Battleship was a money-losing flop for the studio, whereas Lone Survivor developed into quite a sleeper hit. Berg, who also wrote the film, really threw himself into the project, conducting extensive research and even embedding himself in a Navy SEAL team to experience service life firsthand. To heighten authenticity, the opening credits unfold over authentic video footage of SEAL training, and Berg employs a restricted rating to soak the dialogue in f-words and military jargon. To be sure, there isn’t an enormous amount of character depth here, but Berg spends enough time developing the protagonists during the film’s first act, which gives them all a distinct identity and presence. Moreover, we see these tough guys depicted as human beings with loved ones back at home, and we feel that they’re fighting for something meaningful.

    Although the title of Lone Survivor is a spoiler, Berg ruins all sense of surprise for the uninitiated by including an idiotic flash-forward in the very first scene. It’s a dumb move, but, miraculously, it doesn’t diminish the tension or horror of the movie’s action scenes. is one of the most visceral war movies in history, right up there with Saving Private Ryan due to the realism of the carnage on display. Berg establishes a lived-in feel, giving us the experience of what it would be like on the battlefield surrounded by Taliban forces. The shootouts here are viscerally exciting, to be sure, but they’re also downright horrifying, as these highly-trained soldiers look to be in utter agony as they get hit by bullets on a consistent basis, but are forced to suck it up if they want any chance of escaping. Added to this, they tumble down unforgiving rocky terrain which leads to gashes and bruises, making their chances of survival look bleaker by the minute. The intensity that Berg brings to the material is undeniable, and this reviewer winced several times. The stunt guys went through hell to bring this gripping story to the screen, and the results are something to be proud of. Furthermore, Berg resists the urge to employ shaky-cam; his direction is steady and clear, and the results are beautiful.

    The picture takes a fascinating turn into its third act, finding the titular lone survivor being picked up by Afghani villagers who vow to protect him due to their religious beliefs. It gives dimension to the Afghani people, showing that not everyone in the country is a Taliban soldier. Added to this, it emphasises the great courage of Taliban-resisting villagers in Afghanistan, who are given a special mention in the end credits. However, Berg unfortunately turns to unnecessary popcorn-munching clichés for the climax, staging a battle scene that never happened in real-life and feels too Hollywood. It may be entertaining, but it comes off as hoary and forced, especially when the Americans show up to save the day. A gentler conclusion would have worked far better.

    It’s to the credit of the performers that, despite heavy costuming, each of them were able to create a distinct on-screen persona which allows us to distinguish them from one another. The acting is top-flight right down the line, with the four leads delivering believable, compelling performances. Receiving top billing is Wahlberg, though he doesn’t receive any special focus once the firefight breaks out. These guys are in the same life-threatening situation, and Wahlberg, Foster, Hirsch and Kitsch are emotionally rattling as they’re forced to confront their own mortality. Kitsch is perhaps the biggest surprise - his woefully flat performances in John Carter, Battleship and Savages instilled very little hope for the thespian, but he’s an unexpected standout here. Also in the cast is the always-reliable Eric Bana, who’s sensational.

    One of the most touching aspects of Lone Survivor is the postscript which closes the picture. Images of the real people from this tale are shown, including intimate photographs and videos, and brisk captions cap off the experience beautifully. If you are able to hold back a tear, then you are a stronger man than this reviewer. Berg has clear admiration for men in uniform, and this film is a testament to their courage, toughness and, more importantly, humanity. It doesn’t quite join the ranks of Saving Private Ryan, and it’s certainly not as good as the phenomenal book, but it’s an exciting R-rated manly movie which pulls no punches in its depiction of modern warfare.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Universal brings Lone Survivor to Blu-ray with a borderline flawless AVC-encoded 1080p high definition transfer which should please even the most finicky of videofiles. Placed on a BD-50, the movie is given a generous bitrate, and the results are stunning.

    Shot digitally, the movie bursts with detail and colour, with the transfer ably handling the dense landscapes and lush forests, even remaining vibrant and crystal clear during night-time sequences. Colours are gorgeous, with lifelike skin-tones and vivid, red blood.

    Detail and sharpness is especially superb all-round. Berg is a director with an incredible attention to detail, and the transfer beautifully renders the uniforms with their multiple components and rich textures. Close-ups reveal every crease and pore on the faces of the leads, with the superlative make-up effects easy to admire in high definition.

    Some shots do look a bit too smooth, but on the whole, this is a reference-quality transfer which remains true to the source.


Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Audio

    Lone Survivor is a stunner from an audio perspective, and the bombastic sound mix on this Blu-ray does justice to the movie. Given a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, the movie sounds astonishing on Blu-ray, and really gave my surround sound system a solid workout.

    Especially during the prolonged firefight, the track roars to life. Bullets seem to be whipping all around you, gunshots are robust, and there’s subtle ambience in the surround channels to establish an effective sense of atmosphere throughout. Dialogue is mixed competently as well; you can still hear all of the chatter during the firefight. Subwoofer is used frequently to amplify the impact of the gunshots, screaming and explosions.

    In the more quiet scenes, the track is equally astonishing. Dialogue is well-prioritised and there’s terrific ambience. When the four leads are in the middle of the dense jungle, you can feel the heat and sense the isolation.

    The music is an extremely critical component of the movie, and it sounds exceptionally crisp and well-mixed. This is a home run for Universal.

    Non-English buyers beware: there is only an English audio track on this release, and only English subtitles.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A rather meagre selection of supplemental material.

Menu

    A static menu with music from the movie.

Will of the Warrior (28:07)

    An exceptional profile of Marcus Luttrell, featuring interviews with the man himself as well as many of his family and friends. This featurette also examines his involvement in the film; he explains his hesitance to let Hollywood get their hands on his book, and there’s plenty of footage of Luttrell working with director Peter Berg, the actors, and various other members of the production team to ensure the highest possible level of authenticity and detail in the finished film.

Bringing the Story to Light (4:39)

    A brief discussion of the project’s origins, with director Peter Berg loving Luttrell’s novel and working tirelessly to get the movie made. Luttrell met with several interested filmmakers about the project, but ultimately he trusted Berg to do justice to the book. Several of the cast and crew also talk about Berg.

Recreating the Firefight (10:27)

    Rather brief, but a worthwhile behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the firefight was achieved, focusing on location scouting, technical details, and how the crazy stunt guys did all of the bone-breaking falls.

Learning the Basics (6:03)

    This featurette is concerned with training the actors during pre-production, with Luttrell and other military advisors coming in to teach firearm drills, proper movement, and so on.

The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings (16:27)

    Four tribute segments are included here - “Michael Murphy,” “Matthew Axelson,” “Danny Dietz,” and “Tribute to the Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings.” These segments can be watched individually or via a “Play All” function. Very touching stuff.

The Pashtun Code of Life (4:07)

    Peter Berg meets with Gulab, the Afghan man who saved Marcus’s life. This segment features an intriguing discussion of the religious code of Pashtun; basically, if someone is a guest in a village, he is protected against all enemies.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All regions are identical in terms of extras; there are just differing audio and subtitle options depending on the country.

Summary

    A harrowing contemporary war picture. It's not as good as the novel which spawned it, but it's a noble effort nevertheless which should further immortalise the brave men involved in this terrible tragedy.

   Universal's Blu-ray is short on extras, but the video and audio presentation makes up for it. This disc comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, October 09, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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