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Case Number 27427: Small Claims Court

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Lone Survivor (Blu-ray)

Universal // 2014 // 121 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 3rd, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle will stick to playing with his GI Joes, thank you very much.

The Charge

Based on the acts of courage.

The Case

I find the military fascinating. I'm in awe of how tough and ready they have to be at a moment's notice, especially when they are overseas and fighting an enemy as slick and vicious as the Taliban. It's hard to imagine being that close to pain and death without becoming overwhelmed by fear. Yet, those working in the armed forces face the unknown every day with the kind of unwavering valor that most of us take for granted. They certainly have my undivided respect for everything they go through to keep us free. These feelings are clearly at the heart of Lone Survivor, which feels like an honorary salute to those who have fought and died protecting the American way of life.

Honor, pride, and brotherhood make up the soul of Lone Survivor, which is based on an actual mission that took place in Afghanistan. The film was adapted by director Peter Berg from the 2007 book of the same name by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. It depicts a failed US Navy SEAL counter-insurgent mission called Operation Red Wings. The task force of four men was sent in to find Taliban leader Ahmad Shah and was quickly compromised. The four men are all professionals and have bonded together through their service. When Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild), and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma) being their mission they are unaware of the complications and eventual disaster that awaits them.

All of the performances in Lone Survivor are excellent. Truly, there isn't a weak link in the chain. The four main actors—Whalberg, Kitsch, Foster, and Hirsch—are all at the top of their games here. Bearded and rough, each actor finds both strength and humanity within their characters, even when they're on the brink of having to make decisions that test a man's faith and conscious. Whalberg has never been better as Luttrell, a man who stands for honor even during war. Taylor Kitsch—an actor I've never warmed to before—gives Michael P. Murphy a solid core as both a solider and a husband (the real life Murphy was so revered that a documentary was made last year titled Murph: The Protector). Hirsch's Dietz looks like the youngest of the bunch, which makes his eventual fate that much harder to watch. Finally there's Ben Foster, who gives what I think is the film's best performance. The choices he makes—and is forced to make by his band of brothers—will eventually lead to a final moment that nearly breaks your heart. It's a performance that deserves to be singled out; I'll go so far as to say it was worthy of an Oscar nomination.

The action in Lone Survivor is undeniably harsh and explicit. Berg doesn't hold back on showing the horrors of an operation like this, and the blood flows freely from wounds with terrible accuracy (created by The Walking Dead's Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger). A few special mentions have to be made as well about the film's dramatic score. The music composers, Steve Jablonsky and the band Explosions in the Sky, have crafted a very specific and emotionally wrought film score. While the music often tends to draw attention to itself, it does so in a way that also amplifies the visuals and emotion behind the character's final fates (if you think I'm giving away the ending, the title itself is an obvious spoiler).

Lone Survivor is clearly near and dear to director Peter Berg's heart, whose last film was the big budget stinker Battleship. Berg acquits himself nicely here, offering up a tense, dramatic, real life tale that hardly lets the viewer up for air. While there are some flaws in the film (mainly a third act that doesn't seem to resolve itself very well), this is a movie that will take your breath away. It deals brutally and swiftly with disaster, and the heroism that can come from the worst situations.

Presented in 2.40:1/1080p HD widescreen, Universal's work on Lone Survivor (Blu-ray) is top notch. The transfer is fantastic looking with bright bold colors, solid black levels, and nary a defect to be found, making for a near reference quality image. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is sonically bombastic and engaging. Directional effects come from all sides during the action sequences, offering up a very enveloping experience. Also included is a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix in English, Dolby 5.1 Surround mixes in English and Spanish, a DTS 5.1 mix in Spanish, as well as English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

Bonus features including a few short featurettes on the making of the film ("Bringing the Story to Light," "The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings," "Recreating the Firefight," "Learning the Basics," "The Pashtun Code of Life"), a documentary on Luttrell's involvement with the film ("Will of the Warrior"), a DVD copy of the film, and digital copies for your computer and mobile device.

Lone Survivor is violent and difficult to watch at times (sometimes almost excessively so), but it's a perfect choice to witness men of service at their best when everything else around them is at its worst.

The Verdict

A compelling and moving account of war.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 96

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action
• Biographical
• Blu-ray
• Drama
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• DVD Copy
• Digital Copy
• UltraViolet Download


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