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.
Queen Latifah and Steve Martin's romantic jailbreak comedy Bringing Down the House locked up the box office this weekend with a cool $31.7 million* take--the third best ever March opening.
Bringing Down the House stole the No. 1 spot from this week's other new release, the war actioner Tears of the Sun, which debuted in second place with a spartan $17.2 million.
After holding on to the No. 2 spot for two weeks in a row, the laffer Old School dropped a notch to third place with a still chugging $9.2 million. Best Picture Oscar nominee Chicago gained some ground, placing fourth with a tuneful $6.9 million, while the romantic comedy How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days continued its Top Five reign with a still gallant $6.7 million.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated comedy Bringing Down the House won the box office crown in its debut weekend with an ESTIMATED $31.7 million at 2,801 theaters. Its $11,317 per theater average was the highest of this week's Top 10 grossing films.
In the film, a convict from the 'hood asks an uptight lawyer to help her clear her name. When he refuses, however, she turns his perfectly ordered life upside down.
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.
Sony Pictures' R rated war actioner Tears of the Sun premiered in second place with an ESTIMATED $ 17.2 million at 2,973 theaters ($5,785 per theater).
The film revolves round a Navy SEAL lieutenant and his elite band of soldiers, who are dispatched to retrieve an American doctor from Nigeria after the country's democratic government collapses.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, it stars Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci.
DreamWork's R rated buddy comedy Old School fell a notch to No. 3 in its third week of release with an ESTIMATED $9.2 million (-34%) at 2,707 theaters (-35 theaters). Its cume is approximately 50.8 million.
Directed by Todd Phillips, it stars Luke Wilson, Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn.
In its 11th week of release, Miramax's PG-13 rated musical Chicago continued to expand and gained a spot, coming in fourth with a still strong ESTIMATED $6.9 million (-12%) at 2,600 theaters (+153 theaters, $2,672 per theater). Its cume is approximately $114.5 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days dropped from fourth to fifth position in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $7.1 million (-34%) at 2,897 theaters (-26 theaters), with a $2,330 per theater average. Its cume is approximately $86.9 million.
Directed by Donald Petrie, it stars Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Last weekend's box office champ, Warner Bros.' R-rated martial arts actioner Cradle 2 the Grave, plummeted to sixth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $6.5 million (-60%) in 2,625 theaters (unchanged) with a $2,509 per theater average. Its cume is approximately $27 million.
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, it stars DMX, Jet Li, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 live-action comic book adaptation Daredevil fell from third to seventh place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $5.1 million (-54%) at 2,728 theaters (-456 theaters, $1,854 per theater). Its cume is approximately $91.4 million. The film could become the first movie this year to pass the $100 million mark.
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, it stars Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell and Michael Clarke Duncan.
Buena Vista's G rated animated feature The Jungle Book 2 fell two notches in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-40%) at 2,553 theaters (-261 theaters, $1,645 per theater). Its cume is approximately $39.5 million.
Directed by Steven Trenbirth, it features the voices of Haley Joel Osment, John Goodman, Bob Joles and Tony Jay.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated buddy actioner Shanghai Knights fell from seventh to ninth place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-46%) at 1,905 theaters (-610 theaters, $1,417 per theater). Its cume is approximately $54.7 million.
Directed by Tom Dey, it stars Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
Rounding out the Top 10 is Universal's R rated drama The Life of David Gale, which fell two notches to eighth place in its third week of release with an ESTIMATED $2.1 million (-54%) at 1,872 theaters (-131 theaters) with a $1,122 per theater average. Its cume is approximately $17.1 million.
Directed by Alan Parker, the film stars Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $95.4 million, up 10.4 percent from last week when they totaled $86.4 million.
The Top 12 were up 14.81 percent from last year when they totaled $83.1 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' PG-13 rated The Time Machine debuted at the top of the box office with $22.6 million at 22,944 theaters ($7,680 per theater); Paramount's R rated We Were Soldiers came in second with $14.2 million at 3,143 theaters ($4,521 per theater); and New Line's R rated All About the Benjamins debuted in third with $10 million at 2,399 theaters ($2,932 per theater).
The Magdalene Sisters, British director Peter Mullan's pointed depiction of an abusive Catholic convent, won the Golden Lion for best picture Sunday at the Venice Film Festival. Earlier this week, the Vatican denounced the film, which depicts young women being imprisoned and tormented in convents for often-preposterous reasons, including having been raped. According to The Associated Press, Mullan told audiences, "As regards the film, it's not just about the Catholic Church and how they oppressed young women in Ireland. It's about all faiths, all fundamentalist faiths, that believe they have the right to oppress young women." Other winners included actress Julianne Moore, who took home best actress for Far From Heaven, and Stefano Accorsi, who won best actor for A Journey Called Love. Andrej Konchalovsky's House of Fools, a drama about a psychiatric institution on the Chechen/Russian border whose inmates are left to cope on their own after the staff flee from the war, won the Jury Grand Prix.
Jerry Lewis collapsed backstage at a London theater shortly before he was due to take part in a benefit show and was taken to an undisclosed London hospital, the BBC reports. The 76-year-old comedian has been plagued with health problems since the 1980s, including prostate cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and spinal meningitis. In an interview with the UK's Daily Mirror published Monday, Lewis was quoted as saying that the pain had been so agonizing that he had contemplated suicide. "In April it got so bad that it forced me to get a gun and seriously think about putting it in my mouth," he said.
Patty Duke remained hospitalized Friday and was listed in fair condition at the Kootenai Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, after suffering a concussion and skull fracture when a horse she was spraying with fly repellent apparently knocked her down, the AP reports. Her husband, Michael Pearce, said he heard a thump and a cry from his wife after he left her in the barn to spray the 2-year-old filly. Duke won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1963 for The Miracle Worker.
The AP reports an Oregon couple who purchased the childhood home of former Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain last month for $42,500 has put it up for auction on eBay with an opening bid of $200,000. The couple says they had no idea it was Cobain's house when they bought it. Cobain lived with his father and stepmother in the turn-of the-century home, valued at $52,660 in 2000, from age 11 to 15. As of Sunday there had been no bids. There's still time to submit yours--the auction ends Sept. 15.
Director James Cameron debuted part of Ghosts of the Abyss Friday at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Goleta, Calif., the AP reports. Ghosts, an underwater documentary on the sunken Titanic, was shot in 3-D using a lightweight camera designed by Cameron, his brother Mike and cinematographer Vince Pace.
Hip-hop sensation Lil' Kim will be making her big-screen debut in the urban Western indie Guns and Roses, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Directed by Higher Ed's Jean Claude LaMarre, the film, set in the 1800s, follows the journey of five female outlaws who are fighting to avenge the murder of one of their own. It also stars singer Bobby Brown, LisaRaye, Monica Calhoun, Marie Matiko and Louis Mandylor.
Madonna's Maverick Films is developing a TV movie with VH1 called How to be the Perfect Latino Popstar, a Pygmalion story set in the world of Latin music, Variety reports. Maverick partners Madonna and Guy Oseary will executive produce the movie, based on a script by Laura Angelica Simone.
Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot was being treated in a Hamilton, Ontario, hospital Sunday for an undisclosed ailment, the AP reports. Lightfoot was rushed to a hospital in Orillia, 50 miles north of Toronto, on Saturday night shortly before he was set to perform at a concert promoting his latest album, A Painter Passing Through. He was later airlifted to Hamilton. Lightfoot, 63, and his wife have asked that no more information be given out at this time.