Better late than never. Going to see movies based on true stories has become a bit of a habit of mine over the past few years-namely, American history. Some were great-Argo-and some left a lot to be desired-My friends and I must have been the only ones who didn’t like Lincoln. With that being said, I recently went to see the new Mark Wahlberg move ‘Lone Survivor,’ based on the excellent previews and news stories I had heard about for a week or so before going to see the movie. To cut to the chase, Lone Survivor is one of the best war movies I have ever seen. One more thing-this is a movie BASED on the real life story of Operation Red Wings and Marcus Luttrell. To compress what really happened cannot fit into a 2-and-a-half hour movie and some parts were embellished. It’s a movie-not a documentary. That being said, on with the review.
Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, one of the worst disasters in American military history. We are introduced Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell serving with his team in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. One day, we learn that Luttrell along with three other SEALs, Danny Dietz-played by Emile Hirsch-, Matthew ‘Axe’ Axelson- played by Ben Foster-and Michael P. Murphy-played by Taylor Kitsch– are going to be put on a mission to gather information, and if lucky, capture or kill a highly ranked Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah. The first part of the mission does not go as planned as Luttrell and his team members discover that the camp where Shah is has many more Taliban fighters than previously thought. Things go from bad to worse when three goat shepherds stumble upon the SEALs. The SEALs tie up the shepherds but are left with a very difficult choice. They can choose to let the shepherds go, knowing that they will alert the Taliban, or they can kill three civilians. The SEALs make the moral choice and let the shepherds go. The team decide to retreat and get to high ground as quickly as they can.
As the SEALs are making their way away from the village, they are ambushed. In an extremely brutal firefight-though not quite as graphic as the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan-the SEALs do the best they can but are heavily outnumbered. One of the SEALs manages to get a message to their command base. The base sends in a helicopter which is shot down, killing all the members on board. All three members of Luttrell’s team are killed. Luttrell is left alone and has to somehow survive with his grave injuries. Eventually, he is found by a group of Afghan villagers. They take Luttrell back to their village until help can arrive. The compassion shown to Luttrell by the villagers was absolutely heart-wrenching. We learn that the villagers have a code to protect anybody who comes to their village from their enemies and as such protect Luttrell from the Taliban until American forces can arrive to save him.
While I was leaving the movie theater, it was one of the quietest silences I had ever heard. Nobody talked. Nobody even breathed. Before the end credits roll, a montage of every single American who was killed during Operation Red Wings was shown. This was a beautiful moment of the film and Peter Gabriel’s cover of Heroes is played. I have never cried twice in a movie before but this movie did it. Once during the firefight and again when Luttrell says good-bye to the villagers who saved his life. I cannot think of a movie where I can give a higher recommendation to than Lone Survivor. There may have been better movies that came out this year, with better direction or better visuals or better acting but this film has plenty of that too. The acting was superb and this was, by far, the best movie I have ever seen Mark Wahlberg in. The action was brutally honest and has you on the edge of your seat before the movie even starts. This is not an easy film to watch, but like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, it is a movie that must be watched so that it may never be forgotten.