A survivor’s tough tale
If you think war is complicated these days, try making a war movie. No doubt some will interpret the machismo on display in “Lone Survivor” as jingoistic bravado rather than the incredible heroism the filmmakers may have intended. Based on the real events as recounted by Marcus Luttrell in his book of the 2005 incident “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10,” the film gives a harrowing bone-crackling blow-by-blow account of a failed reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
It is a chilling, immersive experience that is difficult to watch (and hear given that the body count is only exceeded by the “F” word count) but one that at its most exasperating feels like this generation’s “Saving Private Ryan,” with which it shares a visceral similarity if not an epic scope and complexity.
Luttrell is portrayed in the movie by Mark Wahlberg who with three other SEALs (Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster) is dropped into the rocky terrain that overlooks an al Qaeda stronghold, with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. After a brief setup, the majority of the film portrays in unrelenting intimacy, the details of how the mission goes sour and the American soldiers are trapped in a firefight—victims of bad decisions and failed comm technology—outmanned by an enemy that is clearly less trained but is fighting on its home turf.
The final act goes a different direction and adds considerable humanity to the proceedings – without sugarcoating the cost of the failed mission as evidenced by the photos displayed on screen in the film’s closing moments.
The fact that “Lone Survivor’s” portrayal of heroism in the midst of a controversial, some would say unnecessary, conflict is seen by some as pointless or even propaganda is missing the simple point of the film: to recreate a dark moment of recent military history and remind us of the brutal nature of war, and the courage and brotherhood of the men who are asked to fight it.
From a filmmaking standpoint, “Lone Survivor” shares some of the same strengths and flaws as the much hyped “12 years a Slave.” A primary objective seems to be to shock and shake the audience with little underlying character development. But unlike “12 Years a Slave,” which doesn’t attempt to transcend the particulars of the obvious evils on display, “Lone Survivor” director Peter Berg and crew prove that even at our worst, humans can have an unquenchable spirit.
Rated R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language