Lone Survivor Blu-ray Review

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This is combat. Up close and personal.

by Chris McEneany Jun 16, 2014 at 6:05 PM

  • Movies review


    Lone Survivor Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Lone Survivor Blu-ray Review

    Infamous now for its bullet-spewing centre-act blitzkrieg of near-vertical assault, Lone Survivor is destined to go down in history as the film that literally hurled viewers off the side of a mountain, not once but twice, and had them feel every single bone-juddering crunch, flesh-shearing skid, and high intensity impact on the way down.

    Harrowing and acutely vivid, Peter Berg’s adaptation of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s bestselling account of how his Taliban-bashing patrol in the high country of Afghanistan went disastrously wrong blasts its way on UK Blu in truly blistering fashion. Weirdly overlooked at cinemas, the movie is strongly jingoistic, uncompromisingly violent and powerfully dramatic. Action scenes are peerlessly choreographed, thunderously exciting and genuinely heart-in-mouth.

    Performances are solid and, given the limitations that the scenario enforces upon the screenplay, very affecting. Mark Wahlberg, as Luttrell, is impressive, and both Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch peel back some layers to reveal a spiritual side to their characters’ colossally back luck. But Ben Foster’s resilient Axe remains the one face, voice and blood-soaked legacy to the battle that makes the greatest impression with his incredibly gallant but distressing last stand.

    For those who crave some balance to the skewed politics of such volatile accounts, I suggest they look elsewhere. This is combat. Up close and personal. And, consequently, the film is starkly sabre-rattling and psychologically jaundiced. And, as far as I am concerned, totally justified. One of the best modern war movies that I have seen and a strong personal favourite.

    Lone Survivor Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Lone Survivor Lone Survivor Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Shot in high-definition digital, Lone Survivor manages that striking feat of looking both incredibly rich and sharp and yet splendidly smooth at the same time. Textures are highly prevalent and tangible. Distant imagery is as crisp and tightly defined as the raw, uncompromising close-ups. We are awarded and incredibly vivid tour of the environment, with the trees, the foliage, those damn unyielding rocks, and the views beneath whirling helicopters and down across valleys and far off peaks really standing proud with acute tangibility and full-bore dimensionality.

    Colours are neither heightened nor downgraded. The palette is actually quite beautiful, although there is always the feeling that the digital photography and processing has captured an aesthetic that is somehow more real than real. Eyes, especially those of Ben Foster, are almost hypnotically clean, clear and bright. The final close-up image of Foster’s heroic Axe is amongst the most captivating that I have ever seen – compounded, of course, by the context in which it is captured.

    Depth and three-dimensionality is excellent

    Contrast is spot-on. Depth and three-dimensionality is excellent. A distant line of Taliban fighters on a ridge, the view of the enemy village from the high vantage point before all hell breaks loose, or the sight of lone figures scurrying down precipitous drops provide ample scope and visual depth. Wounds get plenty of exposure, the amazing makeup from gore-boys Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and Bob Kurtzman on redolent display with this transfer. The clouds of blood that shower from head-shots as seen through telescopic sights glisten in the sun.

    The rapturous reds of a hand shattered by a bullet and shorn of a couple of fingers also lingers in the mind, vividly conjured by the transfer. Given the speed and visual momentum of much of the film, the image does remarkably well with its effortlessly smooth showcasing of tumbling falls and rampaging skirmishes. No lapses or lags here. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Marcus Luttrell making a split-second cameo in the QRF helicopter just before it gets hit with an RPG.

    If the transfer falters at all it is with the minimal amount of banding that can sometimes be seen in hazy dawn skies, for example. But this should not cause any concerns. I did not encounter any smearing, aberrant noise, or reduction of, or artificial sharpening to warrant any comment. Do we give this full marks, then? Well … it does look fantastic, although some will not like the digital veneer that can sometimes make an appearance. Still, I think this looks terrific. So … yeah. Top marks.

    Lone Survivor Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Lone Survivor Lone Survivor Blu-ray Sound Quality

    War-hungry ears will be immensely satisfied with the bombastic banquet served up here. Lone Survivor was nominated for Academy Awards for Sound Design and Sound Editing, and with just reason. This is a walloping audio mix, delivered here in DTS-HD MA 5.1, and a sure-fire candidate for top tier action detail and all-round incendiary immersion.

    It is great to see, and hear, the film pay attention to things like the effects of intense gunfire and explosions upon fragile human ears. Wahlberg’s Luttrell experiences hearing loss a couple of times during the mayhem and this is convincingly depicted with sound rushing in and out, dropping down to a confused mush and gradually returning again. As you would expect and indeed demand, the gunfire is ferocious. The high velocity and sound-suppressed shots of the SEAL personal weapon systems are brilliantly rendered. Echoes and ricochets clear and spatially vital. Grenades, RPGs and helicopters bursting into flames on impact with the ground are disturbingly wondrous, sending wallops of steaming air pressure through the soundscape.

    Magazine-changes, skittering stones as bodies slide over them, the thwap of branches as they rake across anguished faces and the multitude of fleshy impacts from bullets, rocks, boots and fists all hit their marks within the mix with considerable aplomb and realism. Movement around the speakers is utterly seamless. Width and dimensionality acute and rewarding. Bass is as gut-shrivelling and intimidating as you could wish for.

    The high velocity and sound-suppressed shots are brilliantly rendered

    Dialogue is nigh-on perfectly delivered. Be it calm or frantic whispers, voices over the radio, distant screams and hollering, vicious in-yer-face threats or barked commands over gunfire or helicopter rotors, the voices sound genuine and believably placed. The score, courtesy of action specialist Steve Jablonsky and ethereal Texan dreamsmiths Explosions in the Sky, is a tremendous combination of gut-wrenching dread and soaring “brothers in arms” euphoria. It is powerful and haunting in equal measure. Along with the distressing imagery that accompanies Axe’s last stand, and Murphy’s self-sacrifice, the music climbs heights of patriotism and dirge-like melancholy and ambience.

    The audio track caters exceptionally well for these tonal highs and lows. The music sweeps around the set-up, the trembling plateaus of synth wavering with superb resonance in a mix that that has been treated with the utmost respect. Without a doubt, this is the kind of the soundtrack that you will either love or loathe. The orchestral warmth of, say, Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner, is absent … but this is new age scoring that owes its allegiance to the Hans Zimmer school of world music mixing. Yet it works outstandingly well with Berg’s bold interpretation of events, creating a stylistic and moving canvas that is poignantly and excitingly presented on this disc. And it sounds amazing. Top marks again.

    Lone Survivor Blu-ray Extras

    Lone Survivor Lone Survivor Blu-ray Extras

    This release could have done with a commentary track from Berg and his cast, or better yet, from Wahlberg and Luttrell, which would have been an incredible coup. As it stands, the real lone survivor makes his presence felt throughout the extras, revealing the extent to which he was involved in bringing this story to the screen with accuracy and authenticity.

    In things like Will of the Warrior and Bringing the Story to Light, we learn about how the real-life situation came about and how Luttrell exorcised his demons with the book, and how this then came to the attention of Peter Berg. Their combined decision to make the resulting film as respectful as possible is also given plenty of credence and there is much talk from many of those involved.

    The intense bravado and maverick do-or-die commitment of the stunt team, and the cast is brought to bear in Recreating the Firefight and Learning the Basics, in which we see Wahlberg and his co-stars training like mad under the watchful eye of Luttrell and other SEALs, and the furious extent of the depiction of men hurtling down mountains and bouncing off rocks. There are some truly incredible stunts shown here, such as one guy literally catapulting himself sixty feet through brush and trees and other highly unforgiving surfaces. We see how the cast got involved with the helter-skelter too. But just watch those stunt men pitching themselves down sheer rock walls!!!!!

    Particular attention to the strong feelings of loss and love, pride and patriotism is examined in The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings. Now, considering the nature of the story and the high level of emotion that courses through the American military, there is an undeniable point at which the memories and feelings of Luttrell and the families of the fallen could be considered mawkish … by some. But when discussing their reactions to the loss of their loved ones, to Luttrell’s book coming out and setting the record straight, and the impending arrival of a movie depiction, I found myself getting quite emotionally connected. Of course, if any grieving parent was filmed discussing their loss, it would affect me … but there is a level of pride and devotion shown here that is down to the catharsis that the film helped to provide. I am glad they were given the opportunity to air their views and their memories.

    Undoubtedly, the reason that Marcus Luttrell survived to tell the tale is down to the bravery and traditions of Afghan Samaritan, Gulab, and his fellow villagers. This adherence to an age-old custom is studied in The Pashtun Code of Life, in which we meet Gulab and see him talking with Peter Berg about the events and the reality of the danger he placed himself in when taking the American fugitive under their protective wing and standing firm against the Taliban.
    All in all, I enjoyed this roster of supplements.

    Is Lone Survivor Blu-ray Worth Buying

    Lone Survivor Is Lone Survivor Blu-ray Worth Buying

    The moral of the story is that Special Forces units operating behind enemy lines really have to watch out for goat-herders! They are nothing but trouble. Peter Berg’s visceral and emotional adaptation of Lone Survivor Marcus Luttrell’s account of the ill-fated SEAL patrol in the badlands of Afghanistan is a literal firestorm for the senses. Whatever your opinions on one man’s version of events as seen through the eyes of a understandably jingoistic camera, there is no denying the fact that he has crafted one of the most intense, frightening and bravura depictions of modern warfare since Ridley Scott’s pulverising Black Hawk Down. A distinct three-act depiction may hit all the usual formulaic chords, but the overall momentum is like a rollercoaster coming off the tracks, and the cumulative effect is adrenalized and bruising, and will leaves yours senses reeling.

    The AV quality is stunning – terrifically detailed and sharp picture locked ‘n’ loaded with ear-scorching sound

    Exciting and thunderous, the film also features strong imagery that will haunt anyone who has ever gone to war, trained for it, or waited back home for a loved one to return from such a maelstrom. Universal’s UK disc pays tribute to the eye for detail that Berg has, totally thrusting you into the chaos and all-out havoc of the bloodstorm. The AV quality is stunning – terrifically detailed and sharp picture locked ‘n’ loaded with ear-scorching sound. Solid extras put meat on an admittedly thin story and provide genuine heart and soul. I love this movie. With military experience of my own and an undying fascination for Special Forces, this is precisely the sort of material that floats my gunboat. But I also understand that not everyone will experience this tale in quite the same way. But as a serious and vivid recreation of a savage firefight, and the desperate will to survive, this takes some beating.

    Awesome. And very highly recommended.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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