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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Lone Survivor Blu-ray Review

Back in January, our own Greg Robinson gave us his stellar, very personal review of Murph: The Protector. This was a small documentary that Anchor Bay made into a Walmart exclusive once it hit Blu-ray. For something with a slightly larger reach, there's Lone Survivor.

Based on the same story and Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's book of the same name, Lone Survivor does have some Hollywood shine, with a budget and cast to match. As you can surmise by the title, it does not have a happy, Hollywood ending. That's not to say it's not worth your attention for the full 122-minute runtime.

The film starts off by briefly introducing us to Michael P. "Murph" Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Matthew "Axe" Axelson (Ben Foster), and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch). Within minutes, you'll know why. This is the team of Navy SEALs that was chosen to go into the Afghan mountains to track Ahmad Shah, Taliban leader and primary target of Operation Red Wings. The mission involves a lot of waiting and watching, until the quartet encounters a trio of unarmed goat herders. What follows next will give you goosebumps -- and not just because of the real-life outcome. The film is shot in a way that will have you gripping the edge of your seat in suspense, just waiting for the inevitable.

 Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch give their best in "Lone Survivor." Photo: Universal.

Lone Survivor doesn't pack the same kind of punch as something like Murph, because you aren't getting an up-close peek at anyone in particular. However, director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) does give the audience just enough to leave you hoping and praying for a different outcome. Also, don't be turned off by the fact that this film is by the same guy that gave us Battleship. This isn't Rhianna on a boat, people. Berg and his four excellent leads have created an engaging, entertaining film that's often hard to watch, but also a real must-see.

The Picture

The opening shots of Lone Survivor show actual archival footage, so the 2.40:1 image may seem like a mixed bag. Once the film starts, most of those images are a lot more detailed than you'll want them to be, given the subject matter. Close-ups are absolutely stellar, showing off incredibly detailed facial hair and pores. However, the mountain scenery is just as lush and detailed. This is a sharp film with spot-on colors, all of which add to the gripping viewing experience.

The Sound

Universal has given Lone Survivor a stellar DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. There's a lot of chatter in the film and from the whispers to the most chaotic moments, the dialogue is crystal clear. Of course, if you know the real-life story, you should know that there are also a lot of action-packed immersive moments involving helicopters, explosions and gunfire. Oh, the gunfire. It's so detailed and frightening, you can almost feel each of those bullets whiz by or pierce its intended target.

The Extras

On paper, Universal has given Lone Survivor a nice set of extras. However, it's more about quantity than quality here. It's not that everything isn't good, but I'm going to be nitpicky and say that I wanted more, especially in the case of "The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings" and "The Pashtun Code of Life." The "Heroes" featurette is branched out into four parts, with Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz getting about 4 minutes each. It's enough to get you crying, but I was just left wanting to know more. Otherwise, there are shorts on the actors' training for the film, the locations, and the story. The lengthiest of the lot is "Will of the Warrior," which focuses on real-life survivor Marcus Luttrell. This was a wonderful featurette, which includes interviews with Luttrell and his family, as well as information about the film. This is exactly the type of featurette that I wanted for the other three soldiers in the "Heroes" featurette. However, it's understandable that the focus is on Luttrell, whose interviews alone make this one to watch.

Final Thoughts

While some may be turned off by the title or the subject matter, Lone Survivor is an absolute must-see -- even though it's a bit hard to watch. It's gritty, scary, heartbreaking and extremely well done. A lot of those accolades should go to Marcus Luttrell for his story and input on this film, but Peter Berg delivers the angles and actors that will keep you glued. While some may be left wanting more from the extras, the audio and video combined with this gripping tale make Lone Survivor an extremely worthy purchase.

Product Details
Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric BanaDirector: Peter BergAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), DTS 5.1 (Spanish), DVS 2.0 (English)Subtitles: English SDH, SpanishAspect Ratio: 2.40:1Number of Discs: 2Rating: RStudio: UniversalBlu-ray Disc Release Date: June 3, 2014Run Time: 122 minutesList Price: $34.98Extras: Will of the WarriorBringing the Story to LightRecreating the FirefightLearning the BasicsThe Fallen Hereos of Operation Red WingsThe Pashtun Code of LifePreviewsBD-LiveStandard-Def DVDDigital CopyUltraViolet Digital Copy

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