Lone Survivor’ makes for a heavy-handed Afghanistan account

Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch star in Lone Survivor.

Two and a half stars

Lone Survivor Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch. Directed by Peter Berg. Rated R. Opens Friday.

A fictionalized account of the military fiasco called Operation Red Wings, which resulted in the deaths of 19 Navy SEALs and special-ops aviators in 2005, Lone Survivor means to valorize our men in uniform, even if doing so reduces them to one-dimensional martyrs. Hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to assassinate a Taliban thug, four SEALs (played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch) are discovered by some goat herders, whom they choose not to kill; as a direct result, they wind up massively outnumbered in a firefight with Taliban soldiers ... and as the title informs us upfront, most of our boys won’t make it home.

Trouble is, director Peter Berg doesn’t trust us to recognize decency and courage when we see it. Taliban casualties are swift and decisive, but American deaths occur in reverential slo-mo, accompanied by stirring music; it’s as if the Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan had been shot in the style that Oliver Stone used for Willem Dafoe’s final moments in Platoon. Dying for your country can be a noble thing, but insisting on the nobility at every moment quickly becomes wearisome.

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