Silver Screen Spotlight: Peter Berg

A man of many calibers, from directing and acting to producing and starting flamewars on Twitter, Peter Berg has had a career of intriguing ups and downs. Beginning as a prominent actor in films like Cop Land, Collateral, and Smokin' Aces, Berg later found a passion for filmmaking. While some of his projects may have manifested into lackluster yet strangely highly-grossing films, his more recent collaborations with actor Mark Wahlberg have given us some of the director's best work. Following up his enthralling series of docudramas -- including 2013's Lone Survivor and last year's Deepwater Horizon -- with this month's Patriots Day, here's a look back at some of the director's biggest films, before he found his calling in dramatizing reality.

Writer/Director Peter Berg on the set of Battleship

Before he dived into his first big screen directorial debut in 1998's black comedy Very Bad Things, Peter Berg was probably best known for his role as Dr. Billy Kronk on the 1995 medical drama Chicago Hope. After working as a production assistant in Los Angeles, Berg quickly garnered a number of film and television roles early in his career, in such films as Miracle Mile, Heart of Dixie, and the war drama A Midnight Clear. Keeping his hand in both television and film as his career continued, Berg went on to develop his first television series. While 2000's edgy drama Wonderland never took flight, the director's next project blossomed into one of the biggest television shows of recent memory.

Spawning from his 2004 film of the same name -- originally based on Buzz Bissinger's best-selling novel -- the football drama of Friday Night Lights later took the form of a popular television series in 2006, escalating Berg's name in television and film to that of quite the formidable storyteller. While I haven't gotten around to the craze of Friday Night Lights, the show managed to survive low ratings with the help of its gracious fanbase, eating up the show's addictive high school football premise and emotional ties to both the film and novel. While Berg as a director would soon find his calling in film, his work on the small screen continued to expand into dramas like Prime Suspect and The Leftovers. 

With 2003's action-comedy The Rundown might being one of the many fun-filled popcorn flicks that fit well into the campy nonsense genre of the time, the film today hasn't become much more than a sign of Peter Berg's transition into the action genre. While I can't recall much about the film, I can say that this project -- as well as his 2007 drama The Kingdom -- injected a certain invigorating thrill into its filmmaking, a nail-biting essence that would eventually carry over into Berg's future products. With The Kingdom delivering a suspenseful political thriller centered around a Saudi Arabian terror attack, I saw the first sprinkling in Berg's films of true investigation into how real-life events could translate to fascinating filmmaking.

Berg and Dwayne Johnson on the set of The Rundown

Working on a number of minor projects following The Kingdom, Peter Berg's next major film projects -- from the years 2008 to 2012 -- gave rise to one of the director's most profitable projects, and also delivered us one of his worst. While 2008's superhero parody Hancock might not be up to par with the superhero films we have today (at least to some), the Will Smith-starrer did offer up an intriguing dive into the super-powered genre for Berg. Easily becoming one of the highest grossing films of the year -- as most superhero flicks often do -- while Berg might now find success in biographical thrillers, his swim in the superhero pool payed off better than expected. Alas, success may only last a short while, as Berg's next film in 2012, the action-heavy sci-fi flick Battleship, offered a rather stale performance at the box office compared to Hancock. What appeared to be a mix of Michael Bay action (and acting range) and Independence Day resulted in a generic alien-vs.-human premise set at sea.

Will Smith in Hancock
That minor hiccup didn't stop Peter Berg from returning to the silver screen, however. Delivering a pulsating real-life thriller equal to that of The Kingdom in his 2013 film Lone Survivor, you could say Berg finally found his calling in intense -- and for the most part accurate -- tales of heroism and tragedy. Offering up a phenomenal and heart-breaking war film in his adaptation of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's fascinating story of survival, while also forging a brilliant partnership with actor Mark Wahlberg (who played Luttrell), Peter Berg delivered one of his most sincere and satisfying projects in Lone Survivor.

Retaining that sincerity -- while also infusing a fantastic sense of storytelling into his most recent projects -- Berg collaborated with Wahlberg two more times after Lone Survivor. First in the 2016 disaster film Deepwater Horizon, and not long after in the biographic film detailing the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in this month's Patriots Day, this unique coupling between Berg and Wahlberg has given the director/writer an ambitious breeding ground for his upcoming projects.

Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day
Whether director Peter Berg continues on his road of bringing real-life events to the big screen or not, it's clear that he's come along way from being a small-time television actor to one of the biggest up-and-coming names behind the camera. Surviving box-office bombs, tackling superhero parodies, and pitching his handful of TV misfires, Peter Berg still has a lot going for him, as his latest films offer some of his most daring, riveting, and highly-devoted pieces.

What is your favorite film from Peter Berg? Never heard of him? If that's the case, I highly recommend you start with The Kingdom! Unless you love teen dramas about football, then maybe start bingeing Friday Night Lights...

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