While it doesn’t have the stylistic feel of Blackhawk Down or the intricate puzzle pieces of Zero Dark Thirty, Lone Survivor stands on its own as a realistic, albeit cautionary tale of what it means to be a soldier while facing overwhelming odds.
If you’re the type of moviegoer that pays attention to director’s careers, after 2012’s Battleship, you might be wondering if Peter Berg would be put on a permanent movie making suspension. Fortunately, he was not, and it might surprise you to learn that he actually wanted to make Lone Survivor first, but the Studio heads at Universal had other plans. This weekend Berg is back in top form and lends a unique vision to the true story of Seal Team 10.
Lone Survivor follows the story of four U.S. Navy Seals (Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunners Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, and Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson) on a classified mission in Afghanistan during 2005 called “Operation Red Wings”. These men were tasked with a “capture or kill” order for Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. Their operation goes relatively smoothly until a small band of goat farmers stumbles upon the Seals’ position. From there, the film becomes a fast paced story of survival and wits with the team fighting to stay alive in enemy territory.
Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch all give noteworthy performances as the real life Seals up against insurmountable odds. Eric Bana who was last seen in 2013’s Closed Circuit, also has a small but pivotal role here as an operations commander in charge of getting the team back alive. Location-wise, the movie was mainly filmed in New Mexico and, with the help of some digital cinematography, Berg does his best to provide an accurate representation of what Afghanistan terrain might feel like. However, once the fighting begins, the screen rarely strays from an up close look at what close quartered combat fighting is really like. At its best, Lone Survivor delivers an unflinching look at brotherhood in combat, and how following the rules of engagement can sometimes have dire consequences.
In the opening credits audiences get a small look at what Seal training is like. To put it bluntly, the P90X Insanity workout you just ordered is a fun walk in the park. Fewer than 300 out of 1000 potential Seals that sign up for training actually pass the course. And while the film doesn’t exactly implore audiences to run out and join the military, it does more than enough to speak to the character of these men who fought beside each other.
For their bravery in combat, Petty Officer 1st Class Luttrell, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Dietz, and Sonar Technician 2nd Class Axelson were all awarded the Navy Cross. Lt. Murphy was the first member of the U.S. Navy awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam era.