Sound Review: Lone Survivor


I don’t really get time these days to watch a lot of movies and I’ve had a lot of things on my hands lately. Nevertheless, I took out some time recently to watch this masterpiece of a movie. The way its shot and the way it sounds is just awesome. This is one of those movies where you will listen to the sound scape and learn how much it actually helps in creating a mood during the movie. I can think of no other way the sound in this movie could have been presented.

My father served in the Army for 32 years before retiring as a Colonel. We have been to places of heavy insurgency where a gun battle could ensue any moment and I know how it feels to be in one. Lone Survivor took me back to those days. The level of reality portrayed is just unbelievable and very rare in cinema, it’s almost like a documentary. The movie is very much shot with sound in mind and the sound department has really taken the sound to another level where everything seems so real, intense and grimy. It’s like you were right there and what you’re hearing is probably captured through some high quality HD microphone {doesn’t make sense}. There have been some really non conventional techniques in use throughout the sound recording process of the movie both during production and later in post.

I am in love with how the dialogue is treated in the film. They recorded a lot of stuff on set with both a vintage mic that acted as a radio lav mic and a boom microphone and the mix between the two recordings is just seamless. The radio chatter cuts out and cuts in at just the right moments which while you are actually watching the film, wouldn’t realize. I particularly liked how grimy and true to the character the radio conversations were. The foley was also adapted to sound like the radio chatter and it really brought the reality of the situation forward. Gary Hecker was the supervising foley artist and this movie took his position to ‘God Like’ in my hall of fame. Emotionally these things affect human being in a number of ways and here you actually feel like you’re a part of the action. Harry Cohen has immersed the audience in a sound scape which constantly keeps them engaged and alert. The randomness portrayed in scenes like the gun battle in the woods and the end battle in the village shows you exactly how it would have been in reality. I have read the book and you know how we have this tendency to wild with imagination when we know the book is being made into a movie? and more often than not end up disappointed to extent? Well, this totally surpassed my expectations. There could have been no better way for it to sound and look.

The ambience and the sound effects are used in some of the best ways in this movie to create something I call ‘Sound Silence’. I wasn’t even a bit surprised to see names like Wylie Stateman and Branden Spencer on the sound department list considering the other great people already involved. The kind of silence used in the film is actually made up of ambience and probably foley elements that are playing just at the right levels and cut and the right time. It’s not like a total dead silence but way better and helps in creating the tension before a fight actually opens up. The parts with the ‘silent’ portions contain only the sounds that would actually evoke a certain fear in the audience and not sounds that we usually hear with backgrounds. The sound effects are cut to perfection and the gun shots… oooooh the gunshots! I so love them and specially the tails on the gunshots. It gels so perfectly with the movie and the locations portrayed. The sound profile for Lone Survivor over at SoundWorks Collection {definitely check out!, embedded below} has interviews with the sound crew in which they explain how the sounds for the movie were recorded. The gunshots use impulse responses recorded at various location to give the kind of slap delay heard in the movie. The level of detail is just excruciating!

For a movie like this, everything gets really chaotic really fast. This film is mixed wonderfully by creating a sort of controlled chaos where everything has the same power and punch that you would expect but at the same time not overpowering or ear deadening. The sounds used for the movie have the punch they need if the original sound that you are using has it in it then there would be no need to boost levels on the mix stage to get an impact. I was surprised how clear and definitive the sound scape was for this movie wherein I experienced all that I was intended to without feeling tired of the amount of sounds used. The sounds are cut to perfection and the gaps provided help in making the sound an enjoyable experience.I like how unpredictable the entire movie is and the mix really brings it out with explosions and gun shots starting almost instantly that would make you jump. One example is when Mark Wahlberg is at the village and asks his savior why he saved him. These kind of movies come by very rarely in which the overall film experience is so realistic and true to the situation.

Sound Profile For Lone Survivor by SoundWorks Collection

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