Published on January 10th, 2014 | by gareth0
Review by Don Guillory
Lone Survivor is based on the true story of the ill-fated Operation Red Wings which sought to capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The film centers on four Navy SEALs – Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) who encounter a trio of villagers while in in pursuit of their target. Because of military rules of engagement and their decision to allow the bystanders to live, they find themselves in a deadly situation.
At times, the film is difficult to watch not just because of the violence, but because of the connection that the filmmaker and the actors are able to successfully create for these real-life heroes. The audience sees these men constantly battered, beaten, shot, and psychologically tortured throughout. Knowing that this is true, makes this even more heart-wrenching.
The film does not go into much detail about backstories of the men in order to create a connection with the audience. The filmmaker focuses more on the brotherhood and the bond that these men create through their shared experience from past missions. Instead of seeing them as just elite soldiers we seem the more human and vulnerable side of them through this visual display. We are not overly exposed to special effects or a grand deviation from the actual events that took place as in some action biopics or war movies. This film allows for the story, the chemistry between the actors, and the events fully emotionally envelope the audience.
Taylor Klitsch does an impressive job in his portrayal of Mike Murphy by showing the leadership and sacrifice that these men embody on a daily basis. Hirsch and Foster complement his performance in assuming the roles of Dietz and Axelson, respectively. Wahlberg’s performance of Marcus Luttrell is where the movie seems to lose its footing. The other three actors outshine him throughout the movie despite Wahlberg’s name recognition. He does not seem as believable as Luttrell or as a SEAL as the other cast members in this film. This role would have been better served by filling it by a lesser known actor in order to put a greater focus on the story of the SEALs and their sacrifice.
Aside from this, the film delivers as a tribute to not just the men who sacrificed themselves in the mountains of Afghanistan that day, but to all of the men and women who have put on the uniform and created a bond with those that they have served and created a new sense of family that many cannot understand. This film demonstrates that through the montage leading up to our introduction to the SEALs, their ill-fated mission, the rescue of Luttrell, and the images of the fallen that are shown as a tribute at the end of the film.
This is not a movie to take lightly. The action is brutal, and nothing about the warfighting is comical. This is a film that will make many Americans who watch it ask questions about how much fight they themselves have. Lone Survivor helps to redefine the action Biopic, as well as, redefine what it means to serve one’s nation.