Lone Survivor

A four-man Navy Seal team of Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) is sent into a mountainous region of Afghanistan to identify the location of high-ranking Taliban leader Ahmad Shah (Yusef Azami).  They are to verify his identity and inform their superiors by radio so a strike team can be sent in to capture and kill Shah.  Dietz is in charge of communications and warns the mountainous terrain could be a problem.  Once Shah is identified Dietz tries to call in but cannot.  They plan to lay low in the woods until morning and then move to higher ground to establish communications.  An elderly man and two boys herding goats come across the team.  The locals are captured and held while the team debates what to do with them.  Their choices are let them go and surely come under attack by the Taliban forces in the village below, leave them tied up to the trees which will lead to their deaths from exposure or animal attacks, and kill them.  Murphy who is in charge of the team decides to let their captives go with a plan to make higher ground and call for a pick up since their operation is compromised.  Before they can, the team comes under attack by a large force of Taliban.  Outnumbered and facing automatic weapon and rocket-propelled grenade fire, the men must call on all their training and experience to survive.
“Lone Survivor” is a relentless film.  It pounds you for three-fourths of its two hour running time.  The violence is chaotic and the way director Peter Berg has shot the film makes it feel like it’s happening right beside you.  Bullets whizz by and ricochet seemingly next to your ears.  RPG’s scatter shards of rock and shrapnel all around you so convincingly you almost feel the need to dust yourself off.  For a film that isn’t in 3D, “Lone Survivor” is certainly an immersive experience.  That is only a part of what makes the film so good.
The characters are average American men who are thrust into out of the ordinary circumstances.  As the movie begins, we see how Murphy is about to get married and his fiancé wants an Arabian horse as a wedding present.  Dietz’ wife is remodeling their home and he’s stressed about what color tile she has chosen for the kitchen.  The four Seals are a tight-knit but competitive bunch and these early scenes give us a taste of their friendship and camaraderie.  Wahlberg, Foster, Hirsch and Kitsch don’t do anything fancy or ground-breaking with their roles, they simply make these highly trained soldiers human beings with mundane, everyday problems they worry about when they aren’t in the field, looking for the enemies of America and facing death every second.  It’s this humanity of the characters that makes what happens to them that much more painful for the audience.
It’s very simple:  “Lone Survivor” gives us an easy-to-understand story of good versus evil with the odds stacked against the heroes.  Many films with stories like this are painfully predictable and, to an extent, this movie is as well; however, this story of honor, courage and sacrifice doesn’t have the kind of happy ending we might expect.  Many of the two-thirds filled audience I was with felt the same way I did as I left the movie:  Rather sad.  And that is the nature of war.  Not everyone gets a joyous reunion with family that gets shown on the local or national news.  Many of those who come home do so in flag-draped coffins.  Images like that should be burned into the minds of all and we should thank our service members whenever we see them out in public whether we know them or not.  Pardon my rant but that’s just the kind of feelings “Lone Survivor” brought out in me.  I believe they will anyone with a heart who sees the film.
“Lone Survivor” is rated R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language.  There are numerous shootings shown with sprays of blood.  There are several head shots, some more graphic than others.  There is one close up stabbing that isn’t bloody but is intense.  We see a soldier pushing his leg bone back in place due to a compound fracture.  We also see a soldier using a knife to remove shrapnel from his leg.  This scene is also very intense.  Foul language is common throughout the film.
While it offers no solutions to the problem of world terrorism other than kill the terrorists, “Lone Survivor” does at least give the audience a look inside the world of a special ops team and the dangers they face.  While based on a true story, many facts have been changed to increase the drama and aid in telling the story.  What wasn’t changed was the fact that 19 members of the military died as a result of this mission with only one survivor, aided by an Afghan civilian.  While there are many Afghanis who want to kill Americans on sight, there are many more who want to live in peace with us and the rest of the world.  To its credit, the movie shows us that as well.
“Lone Survivor” gets five guitars.
It’s a busy weekend coming up at your local theatre.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
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Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
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