AT THE MOVIES - Intense 'Lone Survivor' brings you deep into the action

AT THE MOVIES - Intense 'Lone Survivor' brings you deep into the action

*** "Lone Survivor"

An effort juxtaposing Kathryn Bigelow's measured procedural hunt for bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty," director Peter Berg joins his Navy SEAL protagonists on the front line in "Lone Survivor," a true tale marked by duty-bound camaraderie and a noisy hail of enemy gunfire. Based on Marcus Luttrell's 2007 book of the same name, the former SEAL recounts his participation in Operation Red Wings in 2005, a deadly mission crafted with the aim of taking down one of al Qaeda's top enforcers. Berg's big screen adaptation of Luttrell's tale urgently pulses with camera-quavering intensity. The "Battleship" director naturally forgoes nuance for harried action, but his energy pays off. "Lone Survivor" delivers a tight, simple narrative, well-paced and restlessly thrilling.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Luttrell, straight-shooting Special Warfare Operator teamed with soft-spoken Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and thick-skinned Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) under the command of Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch). The fearsome foursome band together on a mission across the rocky terrain of Afghanistan to take out a Taliban leader and his right-hand man. After 20 minutes of character-padding, Berg takes us straight up a mountain and deep into the action, as the SEALs face a compromise that threatens their objective and their lives.

The film opens with a quick-cut montage of real-life SEALs undergoing rigorous training methods, banding together in misery to support the greater good. It's a difficult piece to watch, but successful in capturing the blind heroism of our United States Armed Forces. Though Berg's movie precariously teeters on the edge of becoming a patriotic agenda piece for the languid masses, the roaring suffering of our main characters negates a sense of flag-waving jingoism. Guns uniformly pop with such frequency the sound nearly becomes white noise, and our director brings his camera in close for a shot of a bloody wound riddled with shrapnel or a spurting, dismembered hand. There's real horror in his uncomplicated tale of fatalism, where the sound of broken bones replaces a wistful John Williams score.

Still, with likable box office champ Wahlberg manning the lead role, and an intro chunk of backstory applied to our heroes (one man struggles with purchasing an Arabian horse as a wedding present for his wife, another frets over paint colors for the interior of his house) it's hard not to cringe and frown when each lead meets his expected end. Our other three main actors do a fine job selling their wounds and their dedicated friendship (particularly the criminally underrated Ben Foster, said to have subsided on dirt during the film's production. Not sure why, but, good for him!) making it easy to root for the home team, even in the midst of such consequential carnage. Berg slips a bit in his calculated realism, shoehorning in a few trailer-prepped one-liners ("You can die for your country, I'll live for mine!") and leaning on exhausted slow-motion tactics to dramatize the action. Still, when the method is done well (like when our heroes roughly tumble down a mountain, one by one) it effectively pauses the pain endured in battle.

Unlike "Zero Dark Thirty," "Lone Survivor" lacks an unconventional protagonist and a thoughtful focus on a nationally dissected subject. However, the unrefined simplicity is refreshingly commendable, as Berg asserts that war is hard, painful, and characterized by loss. Though not an overt think piece, it works as both a nail-biting action thriller, and a gentle hat-tip to those in our armed forces.

Now playing at CinemaWorld, Lincoln, 622 George Washington Highway, 401-333-8676, www.cinemaworldonline.com .