Plot – 9 Acting – 9 Representation of Genre – 10 Cinematography – 8 Effects/Environment – 8 Captivity – 8 Logical Consistency – 8 Originality/Creativity – 7 Soundtrack/Music – 9 Overall Awesomeness – 8
There’s only one way to start this review for Lone Survivor. And that is by thanking all the men and women who bravely and selflessly serve the United States Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army and all the other National Security services that, as Americans, Hush is eternally grateful for. Hush would like to pay special tribute to the 19 service members that lost their lives in Operation Red Wings – the mission depicted in the film. Your sacrifice and dedication to protecting all of us is immeasurably and endlessly appreciated.
Lone Survivor opens in strong suit with actual footage from real Navy SEAL training videos. From the quick glimpses viewers witness, it’s clear to see that the training is unforgivably brutal (on a good day). I don’t know about you, but I don’t think any part of me could withstand to have my feet and wrist bound only then to be tossed into a swimming pool to better understand the sensation of drowning as a “training” exercise. Seriously people, if you know any Navy SEALs, next time you see them, shake their hand and thank them.
Where the film transitions next is to a calm sunrise at an American military base in Afghanistan. We’re introduced to Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Kitsch), Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson (Foster), Gunners Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz (Hirsch) and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Marcus Lutrell (Wahlberg). Murphy wakes to an e-mail from his wife, hinting at wedding presents. Arabian horses. Yikes! I hope my wife likes My Little Pony… We also get glimpses of the other SEALs communicating with loved ones back overseas. These somber moments hit home right away since most viewers already know how the story ends. It’s a solid message – a reminder to every person in the audience why these men and women are fighting. In fact, the first 30 minutes of the film are solely dedicated to experiencing the love and camaraderie shared amongst the SEALs. Normally I’m one to complain about slow development, but here it’s all appropriate and necessary. I appreciate the attention to the lighthearted side of a very dark and unpleasant situation.
Before too long, the SEALs are grouping up to be briefed on operation Red Wings, a mission to identify and eliminate a Taliban leader hiding in Afghanistan. Again, Director Berg highlights the great care that our military takes in preparing for missions. Tactical rooms equipped with maps, projectors and PowerPoint presentations (the nerd in me couldn’t resist)! In what seems like no time, the four man team selected for the mission (Murphy, Axelson, Dietz and Lutrell) are on the ground and traversing the high peaks of the Afghani hills. On that same note, the scenery was gorgeous. I was only mildly surprised to learn that much of the film’s outdoor scenes were shot in New Mexico. The mission is progressing smoothly until the team runs into three goat herders that stumble across the SEALs hiding spot. Lutrell and team apprehend the wanders and begin discussing their options.
Talks boil down to an ultimatum: (1) murder the civilians for the sake of completing this now compromised mission or, (2) release the innocent prisoners and run home. The SEALs opt for option two. Killing the herders would not only be in direct conflict with the “rules of engagement” set forth at mission briefing, but the act would potentially put the SEALs in world news for all the wrong reasons. On the other hand, the herders make it pretty clear they are not fans of the US and the risk of them being associated with the Taliban is real and likely. Ultimately, morality overrules as the team feels that killing the herders (two of which are young boys) is simply the wrong thing to do. The SEALs turn the three loose and then make their way back over the mountain. Unfortunately for the SEAL team, their communication devices are having a harder time getting a signal than a Verizon customer going through Eisenhower tunnel. As the four man team continuously try and fail to make contact with their extractors they soon realize their problems are about to get much worse…
The remainder of the film is very intense. As the SEAL team evades the now tipped-off Taliban they are forced to literally jump off cliffs to avoid being overrun and killed. All the while trying to make contact with home base. Fighting escalates and viewers are immersed in a torrent of gun fire and explosions. The most I can say without spoiling anything is that things do not go over so well for Lutrell and his three brothers.
A heart-wrenching journey throughout, Lone Survivor is a great film. Where it differs from the many other war films is its honesty. Keep in mind folks, that this film is based on a real mission and actual events. The actual Marcus Lutrell was present for all the behind the scenes action to keep Berg and producers truthful. That’s not to say that Berg and Wahlberg were out to make an overly dramatic and outlandish film. They actually went to great measure to tell the story in a way that would make the family members of the SEAL team proud. Click here to see interview footage from the actual family members and their thoughts on the film. I have to attest… not all events are accurately portrayed. Some liberties were taken in the name of suspense. I’d normally wag my finger at this aspect, but because it didn’t distract from the big picture I didn’t have a hard time overlooking the exaggerations.
The message of this film goes much deeper than I expected. The black-and-white nature of good vs. bad is explored in a way that makes one question their opinion of what they might hear on Fox news. Moreover, this movie does an outstanding job of reminding us why it is these noble men and women fight. It isn’t to destroy evil, it’s not to eliminate threats or become the nation with the biggest stick. It’s to protect the ones we love. It’s so that you and I can pursue our passions and dreams uninhibited and carefree. I’d never been so thankful for the men and women in service to my country after leaving the theater. It’s a powerful movie and I doubt I’ll soon forget the sacrifices these everyday heroes are making to keep us safe and free. I recommend you make a trip to the cinema soon to catch this one. There is not another film out there right now more worthy your time.
From left to right, Matthew Axelson, Danny Dietz, Marcus Lutrell, Michael Murphy; Credit: History vs. Hollywood & Photojoiner.net
by Taylor Lowe