Many war movies have been made that depict the horrors of the situation overseas in whichever conflict the soldiers may be involved in. Fire fights, lack of supplies, in fighting among the ranks, the atrocities committed against civilian and soldier alike. “Lone Survivor” has all these aspects of a war movie. But it has something more … something that makes it stand out from every other war movie. This is not just a movie about a fire fight in the Middle East, it is about the lengths to which a man will go for his brothers.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell, a Navy SEAL working Operation Red Wings, the failed attempt to assassinate Taliban leader Ahmad Shah on the border of Taliban land in Afghanistan. Luttrell, along with Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), are members of SEAL Team 10 running the operation when it is compromised by goat farmers and they are hunted through the surrounding hills. Taking bullets and losing body parts left and right, they stay strong as a unit and coherent enough to keep going and keep fighting. I won’t give away the ending to “Lone Survivor” but there may be some casualties – some very sad and epically beautiful casualties.
As stated above, this movie has something that most other war movies don’t. It opens on a montage of videos and photos, taking the audience through boot camp from day one all the way through to graduation. We see boys become men and men become SEALs. It pushes them harder than they ever thought anyone could be pushed and they came out the other side better for the experience. Through this suffering and perseverance, strong bonds are formed with the fellow SEALs and this film really focuses on that aspect of their lives – the strength that they built and the bond that was formed. These are not just guys in the desert nor are they the fictionalized perfect unit of near super humans who can shoot the powder off a donut from 300 yards, then walk off into the sunset without a word that other movies depict SEALs and U.S. Marines to be. These are real men who have bonded and work well together and watch out for each other more than themselves.
The camaraderie that you feel as an audience member is entirely because of this group of actors. They work so well together and have such great chemistry that you really would believe that these men have been through hell together and are ready to walk back through its gates again. The script is a little lackluster with the men spending their off time discussing tile selection for decorating a kitchen and which kind of horse breed is the most beautiful. And half the time you can’t really hear the exact words they are saying due to sound mixing or the hushed tones while hiding or sometimes just the straight out mumbling of Wahlberg and Kitsch. But the unspoken bond that these actors portray speaks louder than any mumbling they could do.
Technically, the movie is pretty good. The practical effects (specifically when the guys head over a cliff) are amazing – disturbingly real. The camera work is impressive seeing as the terrain of an Afghani hillside (starring New Mexico as Afghanistan) is difficult to travel when you are facing forward; these cameramen did it backwards while lugging gear.
The scenery is beautiful, though. Not Iceland beautiful, but still really pretty. Eventually when the Middle East reaches peace and it is safe to take a film crew there for a few weeks to shoot, we may see the real Afghani countryside in movies like this. Until that time, however, New Mexico works just about as well (geologically and topographically).
For those who are squeamish with blood or easily upset by scenes of death, skip this movie. I watched it right before bed and that was an unwise choice. The graphic nature of these events does not lend itself to good dreams. And director Peter Berg doesn’t shy away from showing all of it … the gore, the pain, the sadness, the death. Any of it. It is rated R for a reason.
Other than that, there is no reason not to see this movie. These men and women put their lives on the line every day overseas and, although this is an extreme case, this is a prospect they are faced with at all times. The movie is dedicated to them, and it really makes you think about their experience. At the end of the movie, you will want to go thank a veteran for their service.
Rated R for a good reason, I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.