‘Lone Survivor’ a Box Office Success But Is It a Great Movie?

Lone SurvivorLone Survivor has everything going for it to make it a Hollywood success. It is a gritty, often gory, account of a real U.S. mission in Afghanistan. It is a story based off of the first hand account of the mission as reported in the bestselling book written by the real life hero of the film. It also stars Mark Whalberg and surges with the kind of heroic patriotism that is appealing across the United States to movie goers. It is predicted to make 35 million dollars this weekend, and after Friday’s sales seems poised to uphold this prediction. Lone Survivor is a box office success, but is it a box office success only or also a great movie that should be mentioned come Oscar season?

Some will relate this movie to director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar nominated film Zero Dark Thirty. Two movies which show unbelievable courage and suspense in the midst of the violence and pressure our soldiers were facing and do not edit out the gory details.

But that is where the comparisons pretty much end. These two movies could only be more different if they were depicting different eras in US military history. Zero Dark Thirty paid detailed attention to the bureaucratic anxiety that weighed down its stories mission. It also explored the mundane perplexities facing the men about to undertake the film’s central action. No one will question Lone Survivors ability to recreate the war the way it was for the soldiers, and rightfully so. Many veterans and current military employees have come out in support of the film and its true portrayal of what it is like to serve.

However, after a short opening sequence involving main character Marcus Luttrell the film mostly rides on the kind of action suspense and gore that robs it of being a great movie and instead merely being a well executed action movie. Lone Survivor will be remembered for being an intense movie experience and many will rightfully praise it for letting civilians learn more about what military life is like. It is a patriotic salute to our brave men and women, a completely valid reason to make a movie. However, that is not what they give out Oscars for so do not be surprised if Lone Survivor is left off the ballot at the Academy Awards.

All war movies do not have to be anti-violence. There are certainly plenty of well executed pictures that praise military involvement, although admittedly many of them do come from a different era of Hollywood. But Lone Survivor seems to stay clear of the kinds of situations that raise ambiguity in a film and make the audience begin to think. One scene that captures this complexity is when Luttrell is captured by the enemy and must listen to people debate his chance of survival in a foreign language. These are the types of scenes that make great movies great. Well executed action movies are easy to come by these days in Hollywood, ultimate recognition for your artistic success usually comes from being able to tell a story that confuses, intrigues, and suspends the audience.

There is little doubt about any of the action that is about to take place in Lone Survivor, we know the story we are just waiting for it to play out. Although it is a well done film, it will remain a box office sensation and a straightforward account of an important event in American history. Lone Survivor’s box office success does not make it a great artistic achievement in the form of a movie, if anyone really cares about that sort of thing anyways.

By Nick Manai

LA Times

Rolling Stone

The Dissolve


11 Responses to "‘Lone Survivor’ a Box Office Success But Is It a Great Movie?"

  1. Carl Galligher   January 17, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I went to afternoon show about 1/4 full. I was pulled in with the intence and seemingly painfull action and heartfelt scenes. Acting was very good. I was very impressed with the quiet reverence shown when real warriors and their families were shown. Very moving. A+

  2. Shanna Springfield Lord   January 15, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Ummm….do you not actually watch the Oscars!! What in the hell do you think THE HURT LOCKER was about??? Last time I checked, it won for Best Movie at the Academy Awards!!! Pretty certain that the Academy does go for these kinds of movies!!!

  3. Katrina   January 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Lone survivor was an amazing movie and had an effect on the audience I haven’t seen in a long time. I think they made the movie with respect to the families they portrayed and mark wahlberg was the best actor that could’ve been been picked to do so

  4. Katrina   January 14, 2014 at 11:18 am

    It’s sad that a true account of war and the sacrefce our military makes for our country is not good enough for Hollywood. It’s also pathetic that we even have rules of engagement and I really hope this movie helps to show the negative effect it actually has on our military and the lives it’s costing politics needs to stay out of warfare and leave it to professionals they just point fingers want what they want and expects both sides of a war to follow rules we set?

  5. M. Allan   January 14, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Nick, When many of today’s films portray fantasy and promote agendas of the Hollywood elite; it is no surprise Lone Survivor is breaking records in the box office. This film was simply able, in most instances, to document the true horrors of war occurring in types of conflicts the U.S. has unfortunately found itself engaged over the past forty plus years. It also pays tribute to our warriors, especially our special operations folks. It was intense!

    It will be unfortunate if it is not recognized for what it is……. A great film!

  6. Kevin   January 12, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Lone Survivor was a great movie! Hollywood won’t recognize it for what it is and that is why I do not watch the flakey, overblown, Academy Awards

  7. Tanner Topoleski   January 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    You Need To Know That He Want Captured By The enemy. He went with people that were his only hope of surviving the Taliban. You writers need to pay attention to movies more.

    • Tanner Topoleski   January 12, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      …..He wasn’t….

  8. Lou   January 12, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    My personal opinion is Lone Survivor is the better movie of the two. We are not sure how much of Zero Dark Thirty is true but we know Lone Survivor comes straight from Marcus Lutrell. For that fact alone, Lone Survivor hits your emotions so much harder. The Seals made tough decisions which cost them their lives. We know what they wanted to do but because of rules of engagement that they totally disagreed with, 4 of our countries best are not here anymore.

  9. Liz   January 12, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Yes, it’s a great film. I can’t stop thinking about it. Everyone in the theater was completely blown away and you could hear a pin drop in theater. Intense.

  10. Michael Sevill   January 11, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    lone surviver is a great flim (;


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