War is obviously something I never WANT to see occur. For all the times that it has come about over the course of history, in all its forms, in all its loss and tragedy, in all the politics involved that have both started and ended it, for all the changes, some for good, more often for ill, that it brings…..ONE thing that NEVER changes in my eyes is the level of heart, courage, dedication, and fortitude shown by the men and women of our armed forces that put themselves out there in the midst of it all, exposing themselves to potential death every day in the fields of battle they’ve been sent to, all so we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we do in this country. And just because we’ve heard this sentiment over and over and over again, countless times especially in the last many years with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, may we NEVER tire of saying it, meaning it, and showing our troops that we support THEM…even as we hope for these wars to end so they can come home safely.
That said, director Peter Berg’s film, “Lone Survivor” stands not just as another true story journey, but, as a testament to the statements above, the power of perseverance in the face of adversity. This true tale centers ultimately on former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (played with conviction by Mark Wahlberg) and 3 other members of SEAL Team 10, Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Matt “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster) who on June 28th, 2005 were tasked on a mission, named “Operation Red Wings”, to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd by tracking him down in a remote location in the mountains of Afghanistan. We are initially introduced to each member of the team in a very subdued time at their home base while resting or communicating with their loved ones back home. We are also witness to the initiation of a newly-joined SEAL team member, which brings an initial moment of humor, as we also get the strong sense of brotherhood the unit has with each other. Once their commanding officer, Erik Kristensen (Eric Bana), advises them the mission is a go, things get serious and these warriors put their game faces on, ready to go in and do what they’ve been trained to do. After being helicoptered into their zone, the mission to initially locate Shahd goes without a hitch, but when a completely unexpected event occurs that throws everything off, decisions are made and the fight to survive ensues, as the compromise of the mission takes its toll, support when needed is not initially available, and the mettle and skills of these highly efficient soldiers are put to a harrowing test.
While the title of the film gives away the ultimate result of this mission gone wrong, to really delve into any deep detail would not do seeing this film justice, and to even say it was “entertaining” seems out of place. It is a very well done work, as it does not shy away from the harshness, profanity, or violence of the situation these men find themselves in. That is actually Berg’s forte in directing this type of story, as was evident in another Middle East-set effort, 2007’s “The Kingdom”. The fact that Luttrell was ABLE to survive what he goes through (thanks in no small part to some unexpected aid) is in itself heroic to me, but in a recent interview I saw with him, he made it a point to say that “when I am firing my gun, I am firing it to protect YOU, not myself”, and that kind of unfettered support and pure dedication to one another is on clear display in this depiction. All the actors played their roles to a “t” and having Luttrell as the direct source to refer to so as to how things transpired just makes the realism of this film even more potent to witness. And the supporting cast, along with Bana, additionally makes the desperation of the command unit to save their fellow soldiers effectively portrayed, even when we know the assistance will come too late for all but Luttrell. Wahlberg is no stranger to playing a military man (see “Three Kings” and “Shooter“), and he does not disappoint in playing Luttrell as the dedicated to his country and fellow SEAL’s soldier that he was. I always find that Wahlberg can do this type of role effectively as well in that he can emote as both the tough guy but also the “everyman” that we can relate to.
In total, I came away from “Lone Survivor” with the same combination of sadness, anger, respect, and pride that I did with another based on a true story film involving a SEAL unit, “Act of Valor“. It just amazes me to realize what a special breed of men it takes to even BECOME part of the SEAL’s, much less having the unwavering courage to keep pressing on and NOT being willing to give up, even unto sacrificing yourself for your fellow soldier. in the face of odds that most of us would just want to throw in the towel and admit defeat. That isn’t an option for these men, and to see it visualized just adds that emotional punch. With box office estimates of $38.5 million for the weekend, I feel that shows how this country gravitates toward these stories and I hope is a sign that those troops still overseas currently are NOT out of our heads or hearts.
As always, this is all for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!