18 June 2024

The Best of Peter Berg

Peter Berg‘s films are nothing but realistic. He’s typically a filmmaker who manages to stay invisible, often successfully trying his hand at different genres. His strengths, his eye for performances and grasp on tension, in particular, are never overt in his movies. He’s a director that can build and build pressure over an extended period and create a great sense of geography with some quick cutting, but again, his skills never draw your attention away from the story. To celebrate the release of Berg’s latest biopic, PATRIOTS DAY, we take a look back at the peaks of his career so far, from Lone Survivor to Deepwater Horizon.

Lone Survivor

This true story inspired an exceptionally well-crafted movie. Lone Survivor is an admirable tribute to Navy SEALs Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster), and Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch). Even without the incredible acting talent, who no doubt experienced a gruelling shoot, Berg’s depiction of their mission is a visceral experience, where every shot, broken bone, and moment of pain is shown. The scene where the Navy Seals argue about the goat herders remains a great, challenging scene, too, but once the mission goes wrong, Lone Survivor is a relentless and brutal experience. A two-hour, white-knuckle war film.[read review]

Friday Night Lights

Based on Buzz Bissinger‘s book of the same name, this film is up there with Berg’s most emotionally compelling works. The high school football drama embodies most of Berg’s greatest strengths, like establishing a sense of place. Very quickly Berg makes you feel like you know Odessa, Texas, and what Permian football means to this small town, which, though sometimes oppressive and somewhat troubled town, isn’t without beauty. Friday Night Lights concludes with so many grand, touching, and earned moments. Coach Gary Gaines’ (Billy Bob Thornton) final half-time speech makes you realise Mitchell and his team don’t really lose the state championship, as cheesy as that sounds. As far as half-time speeches go, it’s grade A. The speech is one of the many inspiring, heartfelt scenes from Berg’s powerful film.

Deepwater Horizon

Berg and Wahlberg team up for the second time on BP oil-spill biopic, Deepwater Horizon, which offers a typical brand of valour amid the man-made chaos. Much of the film is taken up with raw survival and high-pressure rescue operations, while Mike’s wife (Kate Hudson, a good, unaffected match for Wahlberg’s genial resilience) sweats it out over the phone or watching the news reports of the disaster. Its shining light, which is much to Berg’s credit, is that the film doesn’t get into any of the subsequent, horrendously slow BP cleanup efforts, or the full scope of the environmental impact. Berg sticks to the job at hand, imagining what it is was like to be there and to be the victim of deadly safety practices in the name of a good day on Wall Street.[read review]

The Kingdom

The Kingdom is potentially one of the most overlooked Peter Berg films. The 2007 thriller split critics and audiences, but it’s arguably one of Berg’s most intense works. During the opening suicide bombing in Riyadh, the overwhelming sound of the explosions and the screams are horrifying. With Lone Survivor and The Kingdom, Berg doesn’t glamorise war. It’s ugly, messy, and chaotic. While seamlessly blending Arizona and Abu Dhabi, Berg also consistently builds tension and raises the stakes for an unrelenting third act, and a chilling ending. It’s also worth nothing Berg perhaps gets the most natural performance of Jamie Foxx‘s career. Like Wahlberg in Lone Survivor, Foxx is completely present and devoid of any tricks. None of the actors in Berg’s movies, especially in the true stories he tells, look like they’re simply playing dress up.

Patriots Day

Patriots Day, Peter Berg’s latest thriller that tells the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the ensuing manhunt that followed it, is a compelling, morally engrossing movie from a typically straightforward filmmaker. The film essentially takes a poignantly accurate view of the true accounts of those directly involved in the chaos, decision-making, or bureaucratic infighting that followed the bombing, which follows suit to many of Berg’s biopics. What sets this title apart from the rest, is not only the way the narrative truly celebrates the men on the ground who helped bring the bombers to justice, but also its recurring glimpses of something far more complicated than patriotism that ultimately lingers with you way after the film has finished.


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