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Hammerle On … 'Lone Survivor,' 'August: Osage County'

Robert Hammerle
January 29, 2014
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bob hammerle movie reviewsLone Survivor

Director Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor” is a powerful, heartbreaking film that simply has to be seen. As the movie ended, tears rolled down my cheeks as I noticeably breathed unevenly.

Based on a popular book by Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor in this tragic story, it focuses on four members of an American SEAL team sent on a mission in Afghanistan to kill a wanted Taliban leader on June 28, 2005. Though I worried that the film would make the same mistake as “Captain Phillips,” namely overly emphasizing the macho elan and skills of soldiers in the special services, that concern was soon dismissed. Reduced to its core, this is a film about skilled military personnel sent on a dangerous mission that failed for unanticipated reasons, and you gradually felt that someone had reduced the oxygen content inside the movie theater.

Mark Wahlberg has never been this splendid. Fighting to survive and save his buddies against all conceivable odds, you are inevitably left wanting to wrap your arms around him.

The other three members of the team, played by Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster, never overplay their hand. Chased through ragged mountain terrain by a large group of Taliban militants, they suffered ugly injuries as they tumbled over massive boulders. Repeatedly shot and wounded, they die with dignity, their last thoughts being of loved ones at home.

Hirsch continues a brilliant career that includes memorable performances in “Killer Joe” (2011), “Taking Woodstock” (2009), “Milk” (2008) and the mesmerizing tale of a kid meeting his end in Alaska in “Into the Wild” (2007). While Kitsch is best known for his starring role in the acclaimed television series “Friday Night Lights,” you should set aside your doubts and see his underrated performance in the critically condemned “John Carter” (2012). And Foster is a hidden talent as displayed in “Kill Your Darlings” (2013); “The Messenger” (2009) and “3:10 to Yuma” (2006).hammerle-survivor.gif
Eric Bana’s portrayal as the boss of the operation also must be noted. He is a startling actor who breathes life into small roles, and it is worth remembering his performance in intriguing films such as “Closed Circuit” (2013), the spectacular “Hannah” (2011), and the embracing “Munich” (2005).

I am a great fan of certain war movies, and if you agree with me, you have to put “Lone Survivor” on your list. It reminds me of stirring films like “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930), and director John Ford’s “They Were Expendable” (1945). It has the allure of Burt Lancaster’s film about Vietnam in the early years, “Go Tell the Spartans” (1978), not to mention the overpowering “Platoon” (1986), and “Apocalypse Now” (1979). Finally, as you watch good men die, you are reminded of the burden the one survivor now carries through life as displayed in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

Look, I know that nearly everyone is aware of who lives and who dies in this tremendous cinematic achievement, but wait until you see the end and our lone survivor being aided by a friendly Afghanistan village and an 8-year-old boy. That little kid says nothing, and he doesn’t have to. Stare into his eyes, and then contemplate mankind’s barbaric treatment of our brothers and sisters around the world.

August: Osage County

How can a film with two Oscar-nominated actresses based on an honored Broadway play be so pathetically uninspired? Even more troubling is that this disappointing film projects a wretched crew of shrewish women in a season focusing on sensational female characters as “The Spectacular Now,” “Frances Ha,” “The East,” “Before Midnight” and “In a World.”

Let me just say that while Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts have received nominations for their performances of a drug-addled mother and her lightweight daughter, neither has a chance of winning. Streep’s drug addiction and vengeful take on everything human would have only worked if she would have become Leonardo DiCaprio’s third wife in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Roberts plays one of three sisters, female Musketeers who are an insult to women living east of the Rockies and west of the Mississippi River. Juliette Lewis’ character is so empty headed that she is choosing to marry a guy who is trying to seduce the 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) of Roberts’ character. Julianne Nicholson plays the third daughter, a sad woman in love with her first cousin who is actually her half-brother.hammerle-august-osage.gif

Joining this group of female losers is Margo Martindale, the sister of Streep’s Violet Weston who secretly had sex with Violet’s husband, giving birth to a son destined for psychological ruin. There isn’t a scene where these women aren’t either yelling or slapping each other, and it makes you want to join them.

Ironically, the only remotely likeable characters are played by men. Sam Shepard, appearing briefly as Violet’s forlorn husband, has the good sense to quickly commit suicide. Ewan McGregor and Chris Cooper play the husbands of Roberts’ Barbara Weston and Martindale’s Mattie Fae Aiken, respectively, and McGregor has the strength to divorce his venomous wife while Cooper threatens the same to his after 38 years. The audience could only cheer their good sense.

In nominating Streep for a Best Actress Oscar, the Academy has again fallen prey to the Ingmar Bergman syndrome. No matter how lackadaisical her performance, they again bow in her direction, this time making the incredible mistake of failing to nominate Emma Thompson for her wonderful role in “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Finally, to add insult to injury, the talented Benedict Cumberbatch is forced to play the above-mentioned cousin/half-brother who appears to be severely emotionally challenged. You would swear that the poor man suffers from autism, something that has gone completely ignored by his slovenly family.

Given Cumberbatch’s phenomenal performances in recent films like “Star Trek Into the Darkness” (2013), “12 Years a Slave” and the voice of Smaug in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” it isn’t hard to judge the table he will avoid at this year’s Oscars.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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