Is ‘Lone Survivor’ this year’s ‘Black Hawk Down’ or just an action flick?

Having now seen “Lone Survivor,” I can’t decide if it’s a real awards contender like “Black Hawk Down” or if the action-packed military shoot-em-up just amounts to “Call of Duty: The Movie.”

Like “Black Hawk Down,” it tells the true story of an American military operation gone wrong. In this case it’s a Navy SEAL mission to take out a Taliban leader that ended in the deaths of all members of the team but one, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), whose book is the basis for the film.

“Black Hawk Down” won a pair of technical Oscars (Sound Mixing and Editing) and was also nominated for Director (Ridley Scott) and Cinematography. Could “Lone Survivor,” with its similarly serious-minded approach, follow the same path?

I’m not sure. It’s a very, very violent film. In fact, I’m going to throw in a third “very.” Those who worry “12 Years a Slave” might be too violent for Oscar voters ain’t seen nothing yet. Consider: For the makeup effects they hired Greg Nicotero, the guy who designs reanimated corpses for “The Walking Dead.”

It’s also wall-to-wall action. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker; “Black Hawk Down” was hardly a quiet character study either, but it had the benefit of Ridley Scott, who had just directed “Gladiator” to a Best Picture win the year before.

“Lone Survivor” helmer Peter Berg is no hack (he’s got a pair of Emmy nods under his belt for directing and producing “Friday Night Lights”), but he lacks Scott’s industry stature, and he’s coming off last year’s “Battleship,” a box office disappointment with the added indignity of seven Razzie nominations, including one for him as Worst Director.

So maybe Oscars aren’t in the cards for this film, but even if that’s the case, if it receives favorable reviews it could at least set Berg up for Oscar success further down the line.

As long as he doesn’t cast Rihanna.

 

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