Adapted from Marcus Luttrell's first-hand account of a disastrous 2005 US navy Seals mission in Afghanistan (the title tells you how it turns out), this gruelling war picture follows four Americans pinned down near the Pakistan border while seeking out a Taliban militia leader. Shot with visceral intensity by cinematographer Tobias Schliessler, the film makes a strong fist of placing the viewer in an oppressive huddle of random gunfire, broken bones and pierced skin, each gut-wrenching wound dramatised with explosive squibs and fleshy sound effects. As the soldiers scrabble for their lives, they tumble painfully down stony inclines, clinging desperately to rocks and twigs, their mortifying injuries worsening by the moment.
There's no doubting the technical skill of this depiction of battle, but writer-director Peter Berg (stripping it back after the bloated catastrophe of Coupon Codes-liam-neeson-rihanna">Battleship) can't quite decide whether he wants the audience to be excited or appalled. While the violence is horrifying, the encasing narrative is perversely "heroic", with corn-fed dialogue presented as solidly non-ironic, and images of the real-life combatants used to stirring, manipulative ends. The result is uncomfortable: physically brutal, philosophically conflicted.