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Lone Survivor: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Lone Survivor (2013) movie poster Lone Survivor

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2013 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Peter Berg / Writers: Peter Berg (screenplay), Marcus Luttrell, Patrick Robinson (book Lone Survivor)

Cast: Mark Wahlberg (Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch (Michael Murphy), Emile Hirsch (Danny Dietz), Ben Foster (Matt "Axe" Axelson), Eric Bana (Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen), Ali Suliman (Mohammad Gulab), Alexander Ludwig (Shane Patton), Yousef Azami (Ahmad Shah), Sammy Sheik (Taraq), Rich Ting (James Suh), Dan Bilzerian (Healy), Jerry Ferrara (Hasslert), Rick Vargas (Crew Chief), Scott Elrod (QRF SEAL)

Buy Lone Survivor from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

The title Lone Survivor constitutes a pretty massive and accurate spoiler,
but this film seems less interested in surprising you than in letting you join it in recognizing the real life bravery of some US Navy SEALs.

The film opens with pictures and videos of evidently real SEALs enduring their intense training exercises. We then fix our gazes on a group of SEALs stationed in the Middle East. First impressions may lead you to expect some chest-thumping promotional film, as this boys club taunts and teases one another, being especially tough on a young petty officer (Alexander Ludwig). Small talk establishes the lead characters efficiently. One is looking into buying an Arabian horse as a wedding gift for his fiancιe. Another is adjusting to his girlfriends' redecoration efforts.

In "Lone Survivor", four Navy SEALs (Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) run into trouble on a mission in Afghanistan.

Such topics are sidelined when a group of four (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) gets assigned to kill Ahmad Shah, a senior Taliban member responsible for many deaths, in Afghanistan. The four bearded men stake out their target from up a treacherous mountain. Not yet having a clean shot, the SEALs run into three unarmed farmers. One old and two young, the goat farmers don't pose any danger themselves, but the SEALs weigh the consequences of their three equally troubling potential courses of action, before deciding to let them go to preserve their mission.

Sooner than they can believe, the SEALs find themselves wildly outnumbered, underarmed, and surrounded. Their communications are not working as they should and any attempts to hold off enemy gunfire seem futile. The men persevere as much as they can, enduring life-threatening wounds while hoping a rescue comes soon.

Too specific to be made-up, the film is based on Operation Red Wings, a real mission that occurred in late June 2005 (which explains the Napoleon Dynamite homage and multiple Anchorman references). Though Wahlberg is singled out in the marketing for obvious reasons, the film relies on a group dynamic; us vs. them mountainside combat, our sympathies all clearly with the Americans.

Communication difficulties make getting ahold of Commander Kristensen (Eric Bana) in J-Bad easier said than done. Critically wounded Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) is given shelter by some sympathetic Afghan villagers.

Lone Survivor isn't an easy viewing. It is full of cringe-inducing carnage, including some of the most grotesque gore realistically presented on film. There is more shooting at and being shot than dialogue or character development.
But at all times, writer-director Peter Berg (Hancock, Battleship, Friday Night Lights), adapting Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson's book, keeps the presentation authentic, never losing sight that this really happened and can happen in war zones. We can hear of casualties reported in the media, but our understanding of what modern warfare is more meaningfully shaped by an experiential drama like this.

Even if you're not a believer in military service and aren't attracted to combat media, you're likely to find this film engrossing, gripping, and harrowing. Berg takes an approach comparable to Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, presenting the facts unflinchingly and letting them do the work. The actors succeed at looking the part of Navy SEALs. Their facial hair is genuine and they seem to be in good enough shape for such taxing combat. Beyond that, they grimace, curse, model bloody wounds, and fall, as needed. Their lattermost task is especially convincing, as the actors, aided by stunt doubles and editing, seem to actually, painfully tumble down the rocky terrain at times. Thankfully, the movie relies more on reacting than acting, as Foster delivers two contrived heat of the moment one-liners that chip into the otherwise consistent faηade of realism.

Produced for $40 million, Lone Survivor was a solid and surprising commercial hit in theaters, where it began an awards-qualifying run in two theaters on Christmas Day before opening wide on January's second Friday. It ended its domestic run with $125 M, more than Zero Dark Thirty and all but 5 R-rated 2013 releases. The film wasn't nearly as big of a draw outside of North America, with $24.2 M from foreign markets making what today qualifies as an unusually small contribution to the bottom line.

One of the last 2013 films to hit home video, Lone Survivor narrowly missed Memorial Day but arrives in time for Father's Day with today's DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack releases from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Lone Survivor: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), DTS 5.1 (French), Dolby Surround 2.0 (DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 3, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

There's no surprise in a new film looking sharp and clean on Blu-ray. Still, it's easy to appreciate Lone Survivor's detailed, presentable 2.40:1 transfer. More impressive than the visuals, however: the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack. Sound, the source of both the film's Oscar nominations, is a big part of the film and the powerful mix allows it to shine, from the loud exchange of gunfire to the subtle atmosphere in scenes of quiet reconnaissance. If volume levels are a concern, you may have to watch with the remote in hand (or subtitles on), but that peaks and valleys design doesn't take away from the fact that the audio makes a huge impact in lossless high definition. The Blu-ray is also equipped with uHear, Universal's nice one-touch line clarifier.

The real Marcus Luttrell advises Ben Foster on how to hold his weapon in "Will of the Warrior." Director/screenwriter Peter Berg discusses "Bringing the Story to Light."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On Blu-ray, Lone Survivor is joined by six HD featurettes.

"Will of the Warrior" (28:05) is a full-fledged documentary spending time with the real Marcus Luttrell, his family, and the parents of his deceased teammates. It celebrates Luttrell as a product of the SEALs, whose intense "Hell Week" training exercises are excerpted, before moving to the film's production with Luttrell's blessing and guidance.

"Bringing the Story to Light" (4:44) discusses the project in terms of director Peter Berg responding to the material and getting the job as well as the cast acknowledging they had to do the story and these real people justice.

As this behind-the-scenes footage shows, there's a lot going on from stunts to pyrotechnics in "Recreating the Firefight." The fallen heroes of Operation Red Wings are paid tribute with personal photographs and recollections.

"Recreating the Firefight" (10:27) gives us some sense of what went into the big action sequence sustained for much of the film, with behind-the-scenes looks at everything from stunt doubles to explosions.

"Learning the Basics" (6:02) details the cast's

substantial physical and weapons training.

"The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings" (16:18) remembers and celebrates the three SEALs who didn't survive the mission with comments from Berg, the cast, and the soldiers' families plus photographs of them and others who died attempting to rescue them.

"The Pashtun Code of Life" (4:07) delves into the cultural code that drove Afghan villagers to assist Marcus and save his life, with comments from the real godsend Mohammad Gulab.

Only two of those featurettes - "Bringing" and "Fallen" make it to the DVD, which is the same one sold on its own.

The discs open with trailers for Non-Stop, 47 Ronin, Ride Along, Endless Love, Sabotage, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (seriously), and Jarhead 2: Field of Fire. Selecting the Blu-ray's "Previews" listing treats you to fresh-streamed ads for just about everything Universal has currently in theaters or coming there soon. Ten ads played before returning me to the menu. Meanwhile, the DVD adds a page of short, less timely ads, promoting Contraband, Safe House, End of Watch, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Debt, Tinker Sailor Soldier Spy, Schindler's List, and The American. (The same ads are included on the Blu-ray in HD, but with no apparent way to access them.)

The static menu attaches a score excerpt to the poster/cover artwork. The Blu-ray does not support bookmarks, but does let you resume playback.

An insert providing your Digital HD UltraViolet code joins the two predominantly silver discs inside a keepcase that's topped by a sleek, embossed foil-faced slipcover.

Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) clings to life and his rifle, alone in the mountains of Afghanistan.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You probably don't expect much of a military movie from the man who just directed Battleship that's marketed on half of Mark Wahlberg's face, but that allows Lone Survivor to easily exceed expectations. This powerful and riveting tale wisely shuns melodrama and jingoism in favor of putting us at the center of a gut-wrenching ordeal.

Universal's Blu-ray boasts top-notch picture and sound plus a solid hour of bonus features. While you may not have the stomach to endure multiple viewings of the film, know that it deserves at least one and not just from former/aspiring SEALs and fans of military video games.

Buy Lone Survivor from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Peter Berg: Battleship • Hancock
Mark Wahlberg: Invincible • The Fighter • Pain & Gain • Shooter • The Other Guys | Taylor Kitsch: John Carter
Emile Hirsch: Bonnie & Clyde • Into the Wild • The Darkest Hour • Speed Racer | Ben Foster: The Mechanic • Kill Your Darlings
American Sniper • Zero Dark Thirty • The Guardian • Argo • Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden • 127 Hours
New: McLintock! • Parts Per Billion • Labor Day • Gambit The Art of the Steal • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou • Ace in the Hole

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Reviewed June 3, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Universal Pictures, Emmett/Furla Films, Film 44, Spikings Entertainment, Single Berry Productions,
Herrick Entertainment, Envision Entertainment, Closest to the Hole, Leverage and 2014 Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.