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.
After months of controversy and a set of not-so-secret secret emergency showcases, Saturday Night Live has chosen Sasheer Zamata to join the cast midseason as a Featured Player, making her the first black woman to be cast on the show since Maya Rudolph left in 2008. She is set to make her first appearance on the January 18 episode, alongside host and musical guest, Drake. While we're sure that almost immediately after she starts working at Rockefeller Plaza she'll be asked to play Michelle Obama, Beyonce, and Oprah Winfrey in rapid succession, we're really looking forward to seeing some of the original characters and sketches she will bring to the table. As an established writer, comedian and actress, a lot of her work is available online, including her web series, Pursuit of Sexiness, which has given us a glimpse at what's to come when she debuts on SNL.
In anticipation of her debut, we've taken a look at her original characters to try and determine where they would best fit in on Saturday Night Live, and which current cast members would work well opposite them.
Character: Thandie Snood, Host of "Fresh Findings"From: Her character reelHow It Would Work: Of all of the characters featured in Zamata's online videos, Thandie Snood feels the most ready to make the jump to Saturday Night Live. Firstly, she comes with a "talk show" premise already, and since the show has been relying more and more on talk and game show based sketches as of late, this could be a big advantage to helping Thandie Snood make it to air. In addition, the on-air breakdown that includes Thandie giving herself a pep-talk in the mirror and comparing a broken ukulele to the demise of her marriage make the character the right amount of odd to make it easy to expand the character into a longer sketch, resulting in a bigger freak out, or allowing other character the opportunity to react, both of which are things that SNL specializes in when it comes to developing sketches. Just add Kenan Thompson staring at Thandie with his signature wide-eyed confusion, and it could air right away.
Character: Jen at the GymFrom: Her character reelHow It Would Work: If Thandie was the most SNL-ready character that Zamata has in her arsenal, Jen at the Gym needs the most work to make it the viable focus of a sketch. However, the character's awkward nature and penchant for over-sharing mean that she could easily fit in with SNL's roster of weirdos and oddballs with a little bit of polishing. We could see Jen playing well off of another character or two, maybe as some sort of a double-act, or as the kind of character that pops up briefly for bit parts in sketches, just to add a bit of insanity to the proceedings. Think Triangle Sally meets Sally O' Malley.
Character: Sassy Mama Girlfriend, Host of "Watch Yo Mouth"From: Her writing reelHow It Would Work: There's no doubt that SNL will want to have at least one "sassy" character in their docket, so why not take Zamata's vegan cooking show host and find a way to work her into other sketches? While the cooking show featured in Zamata's reel is a great way to showcase the character, and features a great punchline about the side effects of cutting an onion, we see Sassy Mama Girlfriend hosting a character-based talk show. The best SNL talk shows have always revolved around some sort of outlandish, over-the-top host, like with "Bronx Beat" or the "Barry Gibb Talk Show," and we could see this character fitting in well amongst all of those other segments. It would also allow Zamata to keep the beats of sadness and frustration that are featured in the "Watch Yo Mouth" clip, but would also give her more time to explore them while giving Sassy Mama Girlfriend some characters to play off of. Consider it the perfect alternative to "Waking Up With Kimye."
Character: Melanie Mostnik, Host of "Morning After Meals"From: Her writing reelHow It Would Work: Both SNL and Zamata appear to be big fans of "host" characters, which would give her plenty of opportunities to come up with sketches that work with the tone of the show. But while Melanie would make a decent basis for a game show host, we love the premise of her hosting a cooking show in the kitchen of her one night stands, and think it would work perfectly as a filmed sketch, with Taran Killam or Brooks Wheelan playing the surprised guy. With the right amount of nervous energy on his part, and the right amount of annoyance and forced pleasantness on hers, we could easily see this fitting in on the show. SNL has been utilizing a lot of filmed sketches this season, with varying levels of success, but we think that "Morning After Meals" has an original enough premise that it would wind up being one of the better ones this season.
Character: N/A, "White Ad Executives Make Commercials for Black People"From: Her writing reelHow It Would Work: Zamata doesn't actually appear in this sketch, which is one of many commercial parodies that she has featured on her reels, but of all of them, it feels like it would work the best on SNL. Between the Morgan Freeman narration and the ridiculous acting, the sketch balances silliness with satire, which would make it a good fit for the commercial slot on the show. SNL has always been well-known for its commercial parodies, and Zamata's reel proves that she has experience writings ones that are snappy and memorable. Plus, her writing talent will help her establish herself on the show quickly, and would allow her voice from getting lost in bit parts and one-off characters. And since we're sure someone on that show has a Morgan Freeman impression ready to go, she won't have to waste any time when it comes to developing new commercials.
Character: Male Stand-upFrom: Chioke Nassor's Storytime SeriesHow It Would Work: Zamata uses an obnoxious, aggressive male stand-up character when she is re-imagining an incident where she was flashed on the street from his perspective. He starts off the story loud and brash, full of confidence, and then, as his set goes on, he starts to become sad about the bad first impression he made, and the possible loss of a genuine connection. We could see this character working well as "one of the guys" in a sketch with Jay Pharoah, but the real similarity is with Kyle Mooney, whose Internet sketch group Good Neighbor features a surfer dude named Todd, who also has moments of genuine self-reflection and existential crisis. Mooney's digital sketches have been among the highlights of the new season, and we think that he and Zamata would work well together, creating weird situations and characters that feel the need to think back on their life choices. Together, they will be laughing and learning.
Character: Cashier; BaristaFrom: Inside Amy Shumer; Totally Biased with W. Kamau BellHow It Would Work: Both of these characters are smaller, side characters, who are more of the straight-men than many of Zamata's other characters. However, both show that she plays off of other people really well, which is always an asset in sketch comedy, and that she has the ability to make a quieter character just as memorable as one that is loud and over-the-top. As a featured player, it's likely that Zamata will have to play a similar role in many of the sketches she's in this season, and her annoyed cashier on Inside Amy Shumer proves that she will likely be able to keep from getting lost in all of the insanity that is coming her way. It also would make her a good counterpoint for someone like Kate McKinnon, who specializes in weirdos, as she wouldn't be bowled over the force of McKinnon's characters. Plus, her barista on Totally Biased will hopefully give her the basis for a lot of character whose oddity is scaled down, which would help balance out the structure of the show.