Thursday 16 January 2014


(Peter Berg, 2013)

America: Fuck Yeah!
Four heroic Navy SEALs on a recon mission in Afghanistan find themselves caught in open ground by multiple Taliban fighters. Without access to communications and with nowhere to run, they begin a desperate rearguard action, killing dozens of enemy soldiers. But they are whittled down gradually until only one remains...
Reminiscent of Ridley Scott's superior Black Hawk Down, this a a combat movie that sentimentalises the band of brothers at its heart while turning the faceless enemy combatants into little better than 1st person shooter video game cannon fodder. That is, when the enemy is not being identified as evil Taliban leadership, responsible directly for the deaths of US soldiers. Berg isn't interested in the politics or morals of the conflict in Afghanistan, and so he reduces it to a jingoistic claptrap of black and white, good versus evil.
In this case the good are represented by American movie stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster (the standout) play the four SEALs, with Eric Bana their commanding officer. Berg knows what he's doing and the battle scenes here are ferocious, and crucially always maintain some spatial coherence - you know exactly where everybody is in relation to everybody else, despite all the gunfire and explosions.
Documentary footage over the opening credits shows how tough SEAL training is and that should serve as a warning of sorts - these men (literally) jump off two cliffs as part of their retreat, and this film is really as much of a gruelling survival ordeal as it is a War movie. The cast are fine, the script efficient but hideously bombastic - Afghans die rapidly, meaninglessly, one after another. Each American death, meanwhile, is underlined somehow; in slow motion, given a heavy musical backing, crosscut with another event: these men are HEROES, and don't you forget it, son.
It works if you like that sort of thing, I guess.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review David. While it does get a bit sentimental by the end, it feels more deserved than plenty of other war movies out there, and that's worth crediting.