True war movies are not fun to watch. They may be great, but they’re difficult to sit through. Lone Survivor is no exception, especially because you know that, one, it tells the story of four real Navy SEALs and, two, only one of the four is going to make it out alive – hence the title “Lone Survivor.” As expected, Lone Survivor is tough to watch, but it’s a great tribute to many real soldiers who gave their lives for their country.
Several years ago, four SEALs were assigned to monitor a small village in the mountains of Afghanistan. They were sent to look for and take out a Taliban leader known to be in the area. From a distant vantage point, they spotted him in the town below along with more than 100 armed soldiers. Communications to their commanding officers went out, so they hunkered down to wait for comms to go back up.
In the meantime, a goat herder and two of his kids wandered into camp, completely botching the SEAL mission. The foursome was left to make a hard decision – kill the captured natives, which would break the rules of engagement; tie them up, which would ultimately lead to their deaths from the elements; or let them go, which would result in the large Taliban army hunting them down in the hills. As we know, they chose the latter and paid dearly for it.
I walked into Lone Survivor knowing only that Mark Wahlberg was playing the SEAL to make it out alive, Marcus Luttrell. For me, knowing little about the story paid off, as it kept me constantly tense and engaged. It even surprised me a few times. But even if you’ve read Luttrell’s book or are familiar with the story, it should still be an strong moviegoing experience. It’s agenda-free and patriotic. The film opens with real footage showing the grueling training that SEALs go through and closes with photos and videos of those who died in this mission.
Director Peter Berg has rebounded well after his horrible failure Battleship. Aside from a few scenes where the action goes a little too “Hollywood,” his direction places you in the middle of the war zone. Wahlberg gives a great performance, as do his co-stars Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster.
My only complaint with the picture is that one of the SEAL deaths feels a little disrespectful, a tad tasteless – but I’ve since seen an interview with that SEAL’s mother who said she loved the film and appreciated it for making her feel like she was able to spend a few more minutes with her son. If she endorses the film – even having to watch this horrific reenactment of her son’s death – then I can’t let my complaint hold me up. Lone Survivor may be hard to watch, but you shouldn’t let that hold you up either.
(Photo credit: Universal)