Lone Survivor Review

The combat is appropriately intense and doesn't get too stupid.

I really enjoyed Lone Survivor. As an Afghan vet, I truly appreciated a lot of the movie's attention to detail and for depicting one of the war's more infamous battles. This reads a little more formal than I usually write for this is a draft of what's going in a local paper.

Director Peter Berg’s adaptation of the infamous 2005 battle in Afghanistan has a genuine feeling of authenticity and care. It’s more grueling than entertaining. Lone Survivor is a true story and mostly isn’t a “feel good” kind of film, it’s an intentionally stressful take on a real life event. This isn’t a pleasant movie to watch, but is an important display of the horrifying and adrenaline filled environment of combat. I mean those criticisms in the best way possible. All those elements combine into an experience with real emotional resonance.

Based on the memoirs written by Navy SEAL Medic Marcus Luttrell whom is also the protagonist, Berg’s film intelligently zeroes in on the battle itself and the four American men that fought it. Berg drops the audience into a brutal and unforgiving battle that took the lives of 19 servicemen, making it the most devastating day for Navy SEALs since WWII. It communicates a visceral, worst-case scenario situation like Black Hawk Down (2001) but a little less loud and bombastic.

Their reconnaissance mission was to scale a mountain in Afghanistan’s deadly Kunar province to identify insurgent leader, Ahmad Shah. The mission goes awry when the SEAL Team is discovered by goat herders. Despite having suspicions these herders are Taliban supporters, the SEALs are then faced with a difficult decision whether or not to kill the unarmed “civilians”.

The mission goes bad when the SEALs were caught by local Afghans.

Following their moral compass, the SEALs let the herders go and hopes karma will be kind to their mission. Immediately, these Afghans report to a Taliban group about the American’s location. The SEALs are virtually surrounded immediately.

Even for folks that aren’t familiar with the real events the film depicts, its very obvious where the movie goes by title and trailer alone. Lone Survivor’s major plot points aren’t a secret. However, Berg expertly maintains a high-level stress environment. The story arc knows that you are likely aware of Marcus Luttrell’s life, so it’s going to tell this story from the angle of the stress and agony the SEALs went through that day. This story is more about the journey than the destination.

A couple of times throughout the movie, the SEAL team has no other choice than to jump down a mountain to avoid being killed or captured by Taliban. In various real-life interviews, Marcus Luttrell explained that every time their body made contact with the ground, another few bones broke and most direct encounters with the enemy left a few more bullet holes in their bodies. Every broken bone, every gunshot, is gratuitously depicted for maximum impact.

Despite that, there’s very little gore. The visuals and sound design mold together in creative ways to make you aware of the wounds these men are receiving without being gross or exploitative.

Several actors were even injured during filming. The stunt coordinator didn’t use dummies or wires for the falling sequences. Kevin Scott, was charged with these sequences and to depict realism, he tasked his stuntmen with falling 15-20ft sometimes. To properly mimic how the SEALs fell, Scott wanted gravity to take over and told his stuntmen, “Wherever you fall, just go with it”.

It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes Lone Survivor shine. While I was not a part of Operation Red Wings, I have been to the region in Afghanistan the movie is supposed to be emulating. The environment is about as close as you can probably get and even the make-shift bases for some of the earlier scenes in the film are convincing enough to me as someone who has physically been in most of the real-world counterparts. Even just the attention to detail as to the brand of gloves the servicemen are wearing are spot on and everything blends together to make this movie probably as close as you can get without just watching actual combat footage from overseas.

I wonder if Luttrell actually wore a green top or if that's for you to separate who's the main character.

Lone Survivor doesn’t take too much time to expand on its characters for us to get a real glimpse into who these real men were. Instead it wants to communicate how a real battle took place and the inevitable bond lead character Marcus Luttrell forms with an Afghan man that rescues him. It’s the kind of story that on its own would seem too Rambo if it were fiction, but knowing that the film follows closely as to what Luttrell and military reports say what happened that day separates this movie from Call of Duty or interlacing jingoism and cements itself as a genuine movie that can stand proud next to other great war story interpretations like Band of Brothers.

Thanks!

@stevenbeynon

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PTSD and how Battlefield potentially saved my life

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is truly hard to quickly define.

To put it simply, it’s a negative impact on one’s frame of mind due to a traumatic event. Some event in which the 'victim' witnesses something truly awful or is put into a situation so extreme it makes their mind not work like it should.

Each case is different. Some folks develop violent tendencies or become alcoholics. Some end up on the extreme and end up committing suicide such as a close friend of mine chose to.

For me, I’m probably on the lesser end. I was diagnosed back in February. I have random issues with claustrophobia, I’m slightly paranoid, I’m probably over-protective of those I care about, and of course the occasional obligatory nightmares.

While these issues might sound bad on paper, I’m in a privileged state to not have this condition affect my everyday life. My close friends and family will never be let in on the true nature of the condition, and I don’t see myself truly opening up to my experiences overseas anytime soon. I feel as if I'll never truly open up to civilians as I’d like to, they either wouldn’t believe me or they would be turned off by violence I’ve partaken in or think I’m crazy. And on the few occasions I’ve tried to share things, they just don’t care.

It has become increasingly obvious there are some dumb things I simply can’t do anymore. Or at least enjoy as much as I used to. For instance, my PTSD seems to flare up when I drink Jäger. I know...weird, right? I’ve yet to find a vet that shares that problem. Not that it’s a good drink, but fuck...I’m in college and pounding $4 Jägerbombs at the shitty bar is part of the young adult experience.

I have a true love for videogames. Playing, critiquing, and simply coming on this site to chat about them in some manner of intelligent form is my creed.

While I don’t have a difficulty with most games, one of my favorites is too well designed for me to play in long stretches or intoxicated. My doctor says alcohol inflates PTSD like a balloon, so all triggers should be avoided like a goddamn plague. My doctor is kind of right unfortunately.

Battlefield’s (3 & 4 specifically) attention to detail is astonishingly well done and my mental health problem should be a complement to the developers. So to all the folks at EA, don’t take this as a negative criticism but as an official seal of approval that your design is so well polished that a man that has lived the real experience is disturbed.

Listen to this fight in Afghanistan and how its sounds might compare to games like Battlefield:

The game’s single-player isn’t representative of the real world and the combat itself is too cartoonish to take seriously in comparison of real-world Afghanistan. Instead, it’s the sound design.

More Afghanistan footage:

This may sound like a trivial element, but the incredible sound design encapsulates the real world thing well enough to put me on edge a bit, especially with high quality headphones.

The dynamics of the entire game are truly impressive. The ambient noise on multiplayer maps with explosions, and distant machine guns are more than enough to resonate with any veteran. In my case, well enough to make me uncomfortable.

In Battlefield 3 I was walking with my squad. My squad was actually made up mostly of my real world army buddies. I’ll preface this with real world military tactics don’t necessarily apply to videogame success.

We took enemy sniper fire from a rooftop, the enemy likely being some 12 year old from Colorado or something. I returned fire with my SAW, the weapon I used through most of Afghanistan.

The Army trains the machine gunner to immediately return fire in the direction in which it was received for the riflemen to pick out the enemy. The supersonic sound of that 'sniper’s' 7.62mm round whizzing over my shoulder brought back memories and sounded close enough to a real world scenario. I jumped behind cover and immediately expelled dozens of bullets.

I went into “Army mode”.

Now a word from a Battlefield sound designer:

As I laid down a barrage of my 5.56mm SAW rounds on to the window this Sniper was firing from, I asked riflemen to find him with their ACOG optics. They returned accurate fire. One group in my squad had a 320 Grenade Launcher. I yelled at him to fire all the 40mm grenades he had until the threat was destroyed.

The sporadic gunfire sang in a specific rhythm I was used to. The sounds of gunfire tells a narrative. From the rate of cyclic fire the machine gunner chooses, the volume of rifle shooting, distant explosions, RPG fire bracketing your position, and guys yelling obscenities in the background tell a tale every veteran is used to. From the arrangement of these elements, you can sometimes paint the specifics of how deep troopers are “in the shit”.

A full belt of my own ammo, dozens of rifle bullets, and 2 grenades later the 12 year old from Colorado was “dead”.

The dust cleared. I realized during those six seconds we weren’t playing a videogame, but instead were transported back in time. I was in fact playing with guys that were in my fire team overseas. It was natural to shout orders and to verbally analyze the distance and direction of the threat.

This event was before I was diagnosed with any problem. Something serious settled in with me that night of playing. I then realized I had a problem.

Not long after that play session my long time friend Doran killed himself. He was in my virtual and real world squad. I had plans to move in with him and we would go to Ohio State University together. We wanted to throw awesome parties and such.

No, Fox News, videogames didn't kill him!

A man that saved my life and wanted nothing more than to kick-back with whiskey and play videogames with me in Columbus ended his own life because of a misunderstood and easily underestimated disorder.

That session with Battlefield was my first true insight that I have a disorder. It was too late for my friend though.

Battlefield's effect on my state of mind is a true testament to its quality. It's one of my favorite franchises. I can't necessarily enjoy it in large doses, but I credit it with pointing out a problem I had in its early stages that could've led to bad choices and self destruction.

@stevenbeynon

76 Comments

Steve, Kessler, and Pascual Podcast with Rogue Legacy Designer

For this episode of Steve & Matts we chatted with Rogue Legacy's Teddy Lee. I liked this episode a lot because I felt we got an interesting insight into a developer's thought process and got a peak behind the curtain on some things.

Click here to listen!

All feedback is appreciated. Hope you enjoy!

Previous Episodes:

Iron Galaxies Dave Lang

Patrick Klepek

GaymerX Founder Matt Conn

Thanks for listening,

@stevenbeynon

4 Comments

Steve, Pascual, & Kessler Talk to GaymerX Founder, Matt Conn. LGBT in Gaming Community.

Matt Conn, founder of GaymerX

GaymerX (formally known as GaymerCon) is an upcoming videogame convention that revolves around the LGBT community. In this episode of Steve&Matts we talked to its founder, Matt Conn. He's a 25 year old San Francisco resident that wants to shine a light on and provide a safe environment for the LGBT community.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!

We got one more podcast interview going up later this week. Sorry for spamming a million shows. As I said, I'll be out of town and I struck a lot of luck I didn't want to waste on getting some solid guests on. I would release these throughout the month, but I won't have Internet access. It's actually super informative and insightful, but I'm the host so my opinion doesn't matter.

@stevenbeynon

27 Comments

Steve, Pascual, & Patrick Klepek Podcast

Me, Patrick, and half of Pascual

The next episode of Steve & Matt(s) (minus Kessler because he had adult things to do today) is here!

Click here to listen!

Pascual and I threw Patrick in the back of the Amateur DumpTruck and talked about Phil Fish, Patrick getting hit on by all the ladies in college for wearing Leather Pants, GiantBomb's status, Godzilla, and more!

This is only my 4th podcast produced and one of about a dozen things I've been in. I would appreciate any feedback.

We got more interviews coming this week. I'll be out of town for the next month, so I'm just front loading a lot of scheduled interviews. Thanks!

@stevenbeynon

23 Comments

Lets Make a Toast To Ryan. Raise Your Glasses!

Screwdriver, simple, appropriate.

I struggle to call Ryan a colleague. My internship was so short I was practically gone before I even started. Nevertheless he was an inspiration. He was a talented host and simply a giant in this industry. Ryan has done nothing but inspire me as I drive closer and closer to cementing myself in this business.

During my internship he always yelled at me to maintain the constant flow of coffee and always appreciated me checking up on what sandwich he wanted before I went on lunch break.

Ryan was also incredibly supportive of me during my deployment to Afghanistan. We had several email conversations throughout my deployment and he even sent us dozens of hours worth of content from the site. With no Internet or TV that was very valuable to us.

So lets raise our glasses and have one for Ryan, the industry has lost one of its bests but we have to keep pushing forward.

I'm also glad to of captured his greatest moment on my phone:

147 Comments

Amateur Encyclopedia Bombastica: Godzilla: Save the Earth

I grew up on Godzilla movies and always wanted a really good game that let me play as famous monsters like Mothra, Mechagodzilla, and Rodan. Well, I got a game. Godzilla: Save the Earth is the second game in a "fighting game"..."trilogy". It has most the monsters you would care about and is probably passable enough for fans of the series, aside from those awful mini-games which you'll see.

So watch me try and piece together 50 years of stupid Godzilla fiction and get my ass kicked by shitty UFOs.

@stevenbeynon

11 Comments

Amateur Encyclopedia Bombastica: Condemned

My quest through the 360 launch line up continues today with a look at one of my favorites, Condemned. Amateur Bombastica, like the 360 at launch, is proud to announce that we're now in HD!

Condemned was a hidden gem at launch and arguably didn't get the attention is deserved. I loved the insanely violent combat. While the game only had one real mechanic which was the combat, it was strong enough to carry the player to the end.

Other Amateur Bombasticas:

Call of Duty 2

Quake 4

@stevenbeynon

11 Comments

Steve, Kessler, and Pascual Do Podcasting

Myself and half the Daily Dota crew got together for a chat about hard-hitting topics like Dota vs. League of Legends, Kessler walking his 360 like a dog, discovering awesome coke machines, Mechagodzilla 3, and more!

I would post the podcast player here, but Giant Bomb doesn't recognize PodOmatic. Just hit the link below.

http://beynon81252.podomatic.com/entry/2013-06-24T09_03_22-07_00

Thanks!

@stevenbeynon

22 Comments