In the line of fire

Ben Foster, Emil Hirsch and Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor
Ben Foster, Emil Hirsch and Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor

Based on the true story of a disastrous covert American mission in Afghanistan in 2005, Lone Survivor (Cert 15) is a brutal yet humane war movie .

Four elite Navy SEALs played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emil Hirsch and Ben Foster are dropped by helicopter in a remote mountain region targeting an al-Qaeda commander claimed to be responsible for killing 20 marines the previous week.

From the moment Afghan goatherds stumble on them, their presence is compromised, and they retreat deep into the mountains, out of communication with their comrades, and , outnumbered and outgunned by a pursuing Taliban force.

The director of Battleship and The Kingdom, Peter Berg, films the conflict with close-up intensity as the bullets fly and bombs explode Ironically, though, the most affecting scene is when the fleeing quartet hurl themselves off a rocky cliff and roll down the hillside, making you feel every bump and crash on a seemingly never-ending descent.

In its depiction of combat, macho togetherness and grace under fire, Lone Survivor is like an old-fashioned war movie. But it is more than that in that there’s a moral complexity as the Seals are faced with an ethical decision which they argue about.

And for once the enemy are not entirely depicted as anonymous cannon fodder. The tense climax in an Afghan village has a surprisingly moving conclusion.

Lone Survivor is not a gung-ho tub-thumper nor does it take an anti-war stance, but is more a lament for the many lost lives.

Scott Cooper’s violent blue collar revenge thriller, Out of the Furnace (Cert 15) is built around powerful performances from its three big-name leads.

It is set in the grim and declining steeltown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, where Christian Bale has a steady job in the foundry and a steady girlfriend until he is sent to jail after a drink-drive accident.

When he comes out his father has died and the girlfriend ((Zoe Saldana) has settled down with the local sheriff (Forest Whittaker). Worst of all, Rodney (Casey Affleck), his war damaged brother, has run up gambling debts to bookie Willem Dafoe which have forced him to take part in illegal bare-knuckle boxing fights up in hillbilly country. When Rodney goes missing and the police are unable to do anything about it, Russell must head for the lawless hills in search of answers. This brings him face to face with psychopathic drug dealer Harlan DeGroat, played with grotesque relish by Woody Harrelson.

We have already been introduced to him in the opening scene in a drive-in cinema where he erupts into violence and batters his girlfriend and then a good samaritan. It establishes the mood of the film where most of the characters prefer to use their fists that words.

Harrelson is a gloriously nasty thug, his pantomime villain contrasting with Bale’s intense and emotional performance as a good man forced to do bad things.

The only mystery is why all this acting talent is caught up in such hokum.