'Lone Survivor' has thrown its hat into the ring for the Oscars 2013.
While all the talk so far has centered on 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and Captain Phillips, a new and very serious contender for Best Picture at the Oscars has emerged in the form of Peter Berg's Lone Survivor. Based on the war memoir by ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the movie starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch is an intense visualization of a botched SEALs raid in Afghanistan.
Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell and his team in Peter Berg's 'Lone Survivor'
Berg reportedly underwent SEALs initiation in preparation for the film and - according to the Hollywood Reporter's review- the rigorous training on display is "infectious" early in the film. These guys are the most physically fit, best armed guys in the army with ultra-survival skills. They do let each other down.
However, their ability is tested to the extreme during Operation Red Wings - a failed mission that went ahead on June 28, 2005, to capture or kill a notorious Taliban leader during the War in Afghanistan.
In Luttrell's own account, he estimated that the SEALs were faced with 20-35 Taliban soldiers, despite intelligence estimating 10-20.
Taking place on the slopes of a mountain named Sawtalo Sar, approximately 20 miles west of Kunar's provincial capital of Asadabad, the mission turned into disaster when a team of four Navy SEALs fell into an ambush by Taliban member Ahmad Shad and his men. Hours earlier, the group had captured a local shepherd and two youngsters but were forced to let them go in line with protocol at the time.
Following its premiere at the AFI Film Festival, critics have lauded Lone Survivor for its action, intensity and high drama.
Taylor Kitsch as Mike Murphy in 'Lone Survivor'
"Berg's work here is at the top of his range.The film is rugged, skilled, relentless, determined, narrow-minded and focused, everything that a soldier must be when his life is on the line," said Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter.
"Peter Berg's scorching, often unbearably brutal account of a doomed 2005 military mission in Afghanistan is perhaps the most grueling and sustained American combat picture since 'Black Hawk Down.'" said Justin Chang, Variety's chief film critic.
Charlie Schmidlin of Indie Wire focused his review on the intense horror of Lone Survivor, writing, "A succinct death for any of our main characters would be a godsend; rather, they are ripped to shreds by bullets, impaled on tree branches, and bludgeoned on rocks repeatedly over 45 minutes before a bloody end finally comes."
Noting that studio head Ron Meyer was in attendance for the premiere, The Wrap's Jeff Sneider said, "Universal Pictures unveiled writer-director Peter Berg's gripping war drama "Lone Survivor" Wednesday night in North Hollywood and not only does the studio have something special on its hands, it seems to know it, too," adding that Lone Survivor may well be "the best war movie since Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker," which we don't have to remind you won the Best Picture Oscar in 2010.
"There isn't anything I've felt more compelled to get done than this movie," said Wahlberg at the screening. "It was hard making the movie with Marcus [Luttrell] there, but I was determined to try to make him as proud as I possibly could no matter how tired I was or beat up we got. We always had the luxury of going back to our hotel at the end of the night and those guys never go back."
With a vastly different subject matter to the other movies in-line for awards nominations this year (Hijacking, slavery, space), Lone Survivor could well find itself vying for the major awards come the business end of Oscar season. Currently, it's not on the bookmakers' radar - so be quick if you think it's worth a couple of dollars.
The Academy's penchant for a military flick remains healthy (The Hurt Locker, Argo), and with neither slavery movie from last year - Django Unchained and Lincoln - finding Best Picture success, maybe 12 Years a Slave is worth taking on.