(out of 5)
Four Navy SEALs stationed at Bagram Airfield are sent to take out Ahmad Shah, a key figure of the Taliban with a secret base in the mountains of Afghanistan. Camouflaging themselves into the trees high above the target’s location, the soldiers have no reason to worry about pulling off their mission until a random encounter with goat herders gives away their location and they are running for their lives. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch are all excellent as the soldiers involved in this tragic tale, an unflinching look at the gruesome experiences of the 2005 operation that the film is based on. It’s not quite up to the level of the Kathryn Bigelow films it is following in the wake of, despite terrific action sequences and outstanding makeup work, because for some reason it does not add up to the sum of its parts. It’s a story of the heroism of these men who fought to the bitter end, but it’s also an interesting examination of humans in geographical space, the topography being as much a villain as the bullets flying at our heroes’ bodies, yet director Peter Berg, in his accustomed efficiency and emphasis on physical movement, does not give this much attention. It’s a war movie about tragedy but it cannot decide if it is about heroism or futility, while the conclusion, which emphasizes American military being present only for the good of the nation’s citizens, will be contentious for some. That said, even if it is not overly memorable it is satisfying and well achieved.
Directed by Peter Berg
Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler
Production Design by Tom Duffield
Costume Design by Amy Stofsky
Film Editing by Colby Parker Jr.
Academy Awards: 2013