Universal via Everett Collection
Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
Universal via Everett Collection
For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
Apparently producers have just decided to completely scrap the whole “everyone has to start somewhere” theme that was supposed to make everyone’s sails feel full of fresh, sparkly air so we all feel inspired enough to cheer on all the bright and shiny faces headed to Hollywood. Oh yes, it’s still on the wall behind the contestants, and the judges make sure to repeat it now and again, but last night’s Idol episode opened with a doozie. What did we get? Not a future pop star, but a sure-fire reject with a fedora screaming/crying/attempting to sing “Smile” promptly followed by a dark screen with a simple message: this kinda stuff ain’t gonna cut it in Hollywood.
Now that we’ve been made aware just how little the new American Idol has changed the whole audition process (other than the fact that everything seems a little dirtier with Steven Tyler around) it’s back to business as usual with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sort of episode. We were in and an out in an hour just in time to watch The Office. (Why is everything good on Thursdays, cruel world?) Idol took this round of auditions down to the “Who Dat?” nation, New Orleans... or Nola... or Nawlins if you’re really authentic.
“You know what they say about a little hat? It’s good for a little head.” –Steven
Well here it is; the best reason to watch Idol. Steven Tyler is a total dog – and no, I don’t mean “dawg.” He proved it during the New Jersey auditions, and really comes out to play for the Nola ones. Okay, so he didn’t run too crazy this time. That hat comment was the worst of it – also, kudos to the censor for catching that. Bleeping out the word “head” just made sure all the folks at home – even the kids and ditzy folks - knew exactly how dirty that little quip was meant to be. (Can you say backfire?) How’s that five-second delay looking now, Fox?
“From my melodic sensibilities, it was delicious.” –Steven
Is anyone else still unconvinced that he’s the new Paula? If you are, clearly you’re not paying attention. This is his best comment all evening and it’s ludicrous. Of course, there were quite a few people who spouted “delicious” melodies, the first of which were Jordan Dorsee and Sarah Sellers.
Jordan shamelessly used his adorable six-year old piano student to promote his music career in the typical Idol back-story video, but when it came time to sing (what? Sing? At a singing competition?) he actually delivered surprisingly well, belting “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with a voice reminiscent of John Legend (whose voice is like buttah) and a few too many flourishes (but that’s to be expected at this point in the competition).
When it came time for Sarah’s audition, she couldn't get to the song without Tyler taking half of her audition to talk about how lovely her lips were. (See? SEE?) For the first time this season, I can proudly say that this girl is one hundred percent legit, singing “Make You Feel My Love” with a simple, bluesy elegance. We can be sure she’s one of the good ones. (You heard it here first! Of course if I’m wrong I completely retract that statement.)
“So coach did you ever paddle his ass?” –Steven
“He was too big to paddle.” –Coach
First I’d like to apologize that all my quotes are from Steven, but he’s the most interesting judge, so GET OVER IT. Being that the crew was in Randy’s hometown of New Orleans, we should have known that some history would rear it’s chuckle-worthy head. Golden ticket winner, Jaqueline Dupree, first sang a solid rendition of “I’ll Stand By You” but not before buttering up Randy by bringing his old high school football coach (and her uncle) on set. Okay Jaqueline, you were pretty good, but come on, that’s a cheap tactic even if it did totally work.
Of course she wasn’t the only one with a gimmick. Jovanny Barretto, a ship builder, brought his pretty voice, his abs and his creepy love for Jennifer (and for her non-crushworthy husband, Marc Anthony). Yeah, he could sing, but that’s the boring part. Not to be outdone by the girl with old Randy pics, he decided to show JLo his pecs. With Steven in the room, we knew this wasn’t going to stay sane, so of course Steven and Randy march up to the audition stage to shed some clothing along with the loco contestant, and between you and me, Tyler’s not looking that bad for an ancient rock star. Randy, your bellybutton was, well…it was there.
“I’m a red apple in a pile of green apples.” – Contestant
Yes, these next to contestants were just that. The first one-of-a-kind contestant was Brett Lowenstein, a dorky dude with an auburn fro and a great singing voice. Despite his ridiculous appearance, he delivered what may have been the best version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” I’ve ever seen this early on the show, even if he did add way too many flourishes. SERIOUSLY. Knock it off, people.
Of course, he wasn't the only surprise. Fifteen year old Jacee Badeaux looks like he’s 12 and sings like a sweet little angel – yes I love sarcasm, but I’m being completely serious. All I can say about Jacee is suck it Justin Bieber, this kid kicks your ass.
“I think your grandma’s losing it over here.” – Ryan
Well, it wouldn’t be Idol without a sob story, so we have Paris Tassin who sang “Temporary Home” for her miracle daughter with special needs for her golden ticket. Yes she was off here and there, but I have to agree with JLo because the girl made me cry and I swear to you, I have never, ever, ever cried while watching Idol. Ever.
“Wait, Steven. You know Mic Jagger’s mouth well?” –Randy
Well, Idol hopefuls, here's a lesson for you; looking almost exactly (but not really) like a rock star doesn’t make you a singer. Contestant Gabriel Franks claimed he’s won Steven Tyler lookalike contests, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true unless these contests happened in a very dimly lit room. Sorry, I just don’t see it. When he finally opened his mouth, it was bad. The kid butchered “Bad Romance” and I’ll spare you the details because Jennifer’s sarcastic “Awesome” and Steven’s exorcism-style eye roll said it all. A-buh-bye.
There were a slew of other baddies, including one guy who viciously held an angry, flat note so long I thought his face may explode, but the saddest of the bunch was one kid who had actually attended Idol camp a few years back. Apparently, they don’t like truth there because he just can’t sing. At all. And he chose the death-sentence audition song, “Proud Mary.” Only the delusional people who can’t sing insist on singing "Mary" in their auditions. Seriously kid, what did they even teach you at Idol camp? Randy’s quip that they should clearly “cancel that camp” was harsh (hey, is someone trying to be Simon?) but it was that bad. I still have a headache. Sorry, kiddo. Them’s the breaks.