Mark Wahlberg’s Lone Survivor: Oscar Contender…Or Just Another Mark Wahlberg Thriller?

Marky-Mark's got a new action-packed movie coming out this December—but this is definitely déjà vu.

mark wahlberg

Image via Broken City

Deadline reported recently that the theatrical release date for Mark Wahlberg’s new war drama, Lone Survivor, was moved to December 27, 2013, for a limited New York and Los Angeles debut, and a January 10, 2014, worldwide debut. The film’s distributor, Universal Pictures, must have sensed that the film has potential to be a strong contender for awards season, considering the year-end shift will qualify Lone Survivor for the 2014 Oscars and other ceremonies during awards season. Originally, the film was set to debut everywhere January 10 without a preceding debut date for New York and L.A.

Lone Survivor is based on the New York Times bestseller of the same title by Marcus Luttrell. It follows the true story of the failed “Operation Red Wing” mission on June 28, 2005, in which four members of SEAL Team 10 were sent on a mission to capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd in Afghanistan. Marcus Luttrell—Wahlberg’s lead role—was the only survivor of the team. Alongside Wahlberg, Lone Survivor stars Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Eric Bana (Star Trek), and Ben Foster (Contraband).

Interestingly enough, although Lone Survivor is generating Oscar buzz already, it’s possible that this film falls prey to yet another stereotypical Mark Wahlberg Thriller. Oh yes, you see, these exist. Mark Wahlberg loves his thriller films. Whether it’s action packed and rolling through car fires with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or playing fictional politics with Russell Crow—Wahlberg’s got the whole world wrapped around his thriller films, and he’s got it down to a science:

1. The Mark Wahlberg Thriller always comes out between late December and early January. Let’s look at a brief history of theatrical release dates of Mark Wahlberg’s last few thriller films: Broken City was released January 18, 2013. Contraband was released January 13, 2012. The Fighter was released December 17, 2010. And The Lovely Bones was released January 15, 2009.

2. The Mark Wahlberg Thriller always has cool co-stars for Mark Wahlberg to play with. Russell Crowe in Broken City. Kate Beckinsale in Contraband. Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and all the other perfect people in The Fighter. Really, I’m a little worried about Taylor Kitsch not being cool enough for Lone Survivor.

3. The Mark Wahlberg Thriller requires Mark Wahlberg in a role that is heavily involved in crime or the justice system. Wahlberg plays a police officer turned private investigator in Broken City. He plays a multi-million dollar money smuggler in Contraband. The brother of a drug-addicted convict in The Fighter. A father obsessed with the unsolved kidnapping of his young daughter in The Lovely Bones.

Although the Mark Wahlberg Thriller is typically predictable from year to year, that’s not to say they aren’t redeeming. Both The Fighter and The Lovely Bones were Oscar-nominated in several categories. And Wahlberg is a terrific actor as well; let’s not forget he’s an Academy Award nominee for his supporting role in The Departed.

On the other side of the spectrum, others may view Lone Survivor as an opportunity; the film looks like it’s representing a strong return for a handful of people involved with this project. Director Peter Berg needs a solid comeback after last year’s Battleship literally tanked into the box office’s dark depths. According to Deadline, Lone Survivor is expected to be more in line with Berg’s iconic 2004 film Friday Night Lights. Actor Taylor Kitsch, who starred as brooding Tim Riggins in NBC’s Friday Night Lights television series, is also in need of serious recovering after his two leading films, John Carter and Battleship, were projected to be the years’ biggest blockbusters, but both surely lost more millions than they made.

It’s a good sign if Lone Survivor is getting some Oscar buzz for next year. It’s got a great, heart-wrenching storyline—the kind that the Academy just dies for—and a solid cast and director. But as previously stated, it’s too soon to tell of its outcome. So let’s stay tuned for the trailer.