‘Lone Survivor’ Bursts Into Awards Race

And the hits just keep on comin’….

The already crowded best-pic race got another contender as Universal screened “Lone Survivor” to the industry Wednesday night at the TV Academy in North Hollywood. The work of writer-director Peter Berg, the actors and below the line contributors immediately enter the kudos conversation.

“We wanted to make this as raw and guerrilla film style as possible,” Mark Wahlberg said at the post-screening Q&A.

Also on hand for the Academy screening were Berg, Wahlberg, star Taylor Kitsch and real-life Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who received a standing ovation at the gala.

“This story has happened over and over,” Berg said of the Afghanistan war drama. “These are remarkable men of extraordinary character.”

Universal’s action-packed pic is based on Luttrell’s book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.”

Awards strengths: It’s a contender in multiple categories. The studio’s timing is right; the pic arrives with little advance fanfare, which maximizes its impact. And while it will play best on the bigscreen, the film should work well on screeners, which is a big advantage.

Awards challenges: The title indicates that the ending is not going to be a lot of laughs. And it follows recent military-procedure films like “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” So voters need to be reminded that this is not something they’ve seen before.

Every awards contender benefits from a solid backstory, and this one is good: Berg spent years on the project, soaking up mood and anecdotes from Marcus Luttrell (played by Wahlberg) and the families of his fellow Navy SEALs. As a bonus, Berg (proving he’s a real filmmaker) and Kitsch (proving he’s a real actor) can put “Battleship” behind them.

The acting ensemble is strong and BTL work is notable, including cinematography, editing, sound and makeup.

The film has likable protagonists, and the Taliban make formidable villains. The film also smartly makes a clear distinction between the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan, with several positive depictions of the latter. The film has a gala screening at the AFI Fest in Hollywood on Nov. 12 and opens a limited run in L.A. and New York Dec. 27.

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