Nearly every American film in recent years that was even remotely related to the war in the Middle East has failed, from Stop/Loss to In the Valley of Elah to Lions For Lambs and countless other titles in between. But the death of Osama Bin Laden has renewed interest in telling stories about our country's controversial campaign overseas, and just like that a handful of topical projects have become high-priorities in Hollywood. Chief amongst them is Kathryn Bigelow's buzzworthy film about the Navy SEAL team that took the high-ranking terrorist out, but director Peter Berg also has one in development based on a book called Lone Survivor, and Universal Pictures is on board.
Deadline reports that the film, which is based on Marcus Luttrell's novel that tells the story of how he and his Navy SEAL team members fought to stay alive after being ambushed in Afghanistan in 2005 by Taliban forces during a covert mission in the Hindu Kush mountain region, is now a hot property for the studio, though it's been a long time coming. Universal had originally made a deal with Berg to make the movie over two years ago, but there was a catch: he'd have to helm a major tent pole first. That big-budget project was Battleship, which began shooting in late August 2010 for a May 18th 2012 release. Now that that film is moving steadily along through its production schedule (it's currently in post-production and should make a stop at Comic-Con in July), Berg is ready to lay the groundwork for Love Survivor. He's even bringing his Battleship lead Taylor Kitsch along for the ride; the rising star is his top choice to play Lutrell (and also just trained with SEAL's for another new film, Oliver Stone's Savages).
"Bin Laden's death has cleared the way for this," said Berg, "a movie that will be an unapologetically patriotic film that honors and pays homage to an incredible group of badass guys who do this." He went on to compare the picture to Black Hawk Down in tone, though Lone Survivor will center on a quartet of soldiers rather than a whole squad. The filmmaker is incredibly passionate about the story, so much so that he spent a month in Afghanistan with a SEAL team so that he could accurately dramatize their heroic efforts. That kind of enthusiasm usually leads to a well-made, authentic film, so I'm all for Lone Survivor, even if the narrative will seem somewhat similar to Ridley Scott's action-packed 2001 film.
I equate this rush to produce Middle East war movies to the flux of WWII films from the late '40s and '50s. After the USA emerged victorious from the bloody battles in Europe and Asia, there was a surge in production on these types of films because national morale was so high. Every American wanted to see their heroic marines blast fascists to high hell on the big screen once the, ahem, mission was accomplished. Maybe the reason that audiences haven't yet taken to films about the current conflict overseas is because there hasn't been anything to celebrate. Now that there is, it's possible that could see war movie renaissance in Tinsel Town.