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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Can you believe it? We’re already a whole month into the Fall TV season, and sadly Mad Men and The Jersey Shore will end their seasons. (It had to happen folks, we can’t have fist pumping guidos frolicking around with some classy ad men to balance it out.) So as we enter this exciting month of finales and trial periods for the newbies, the television sphere is all abuzz. Here’s the rundown of what may or may not be headed to the small screen soon.
Over at NBC, The Event is starting to hit its stride, and critics are even comparing it other shows with fanatic followings – that’s right, it’s getting comments about being the next Lost or Heroes or 24. Really. Despite these praises, the show’s ratings aren’t matching up, so it makes sense that creators are searching for a way to hook more viewers. Enter 24 veterans executive producer Evan Katz and actress Necar Zadegan (who you may remember as the president’s wife in season 8). Zadegan is signed on to play a mysterious new character with potential for a recurring role. Taking the 24-esque route could potentially bring in the 24 fanatics who had their beloved series ripped out of the prime time lineup, and I’m sure that’s what NBC is hoping for. I hope it works because it would be a shame for something that NBC is doing right to fall by the wayside – they’ve been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a while and it’s about time they enjoyed some success.
ABC’s also got some new stuff coming down the line. Matthew Perry is returning to television with his new show called Mr. Sunshine. (Hey, if Monica can do a show without Chandler, then Chandler can do one without Monica, okay?) Perry’s already got a guest star lined up for his new endeavor, tennis great Jimmy Connors. He’s play himself (what a stretch) and he’s challenge Perry’s character to a charity tennis match (wow, another stretch). I’m not sure about a Matthew Perry sitcom, but I’ve bet big money that it will at least be better than Joey.
Once Dancing with The Stars comes to an end, ABC already has the next show all lined up. It’s a really creative replacement – Skating with The Stars. Revolutionary, isn’t it? The show will start November 22 and bring more flickering stars into American homes to participate in an identically-structured skating competition. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Thankfully, ABC Family managed to tap into their taste-meter for a second, killing the pilot for a new show called Strut. Get this, it was a show about a Vegas show girl who becomes a drill team instructor – on a channel with the word “family” in the name! They were trying to get Jenna Elfman as the lead, but she wisely rejected that offer (smart move lady; I don’t see any way that the Showgirls-meets-Hellcats show could have been a good move). I guess Elfman was the last straw, because they pulled the plug shortly after the rejection, but I bet she just saved them from wasting time on a show that I’m pretty sure was going to crash and burn.
Source: Entertainment Weekly, The Ausiello Files