Director Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor” depicts the heartbreaking real-life saga of four Navy SEALs who find themselves desperately fleeing from a seemingly-endless barrage of Taliban soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan. Reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s 2001 military drama “Black Hawk Down,” “Lone Survivor” is a fast-paced military action film that brings the sacrifice of service to life in gut-wrenching fashion.
On a 2005 mission to kill Taliban leader Admed Shah, SEALs Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) stumble into three goat herders outside of a Taliban camp. After an emotionally-charged debate amongst the SEALs, the herders are released, the Taliban is informed of the location of the soldiers, and the protagonists are forced to work their way down a treacherous mountain, all while enduring horrific falls, bloody injuries, and countless gunshot wounds.
The striking feature of “Lone Survivor” isn’t a complex storyline or advanced character development; it is the gritty depiction of war and the heroism of American soldiers. “Lone Survivor” is based on the book written with the same name by actual survivor Marcus Luttrell, who also worked as a consultant on the film, and every ounce of the movie oozes actual warfare.
Berg’s presentation of the war in Afghanistan avoids an overt political positions; its primary focus is to point the viewer in the direction of the sacrifice made, not the purpose of the sacrifice. With that said, Berg’s support of servicemen and servicewomen is unquestionable. The movie begins with five minutes of actual NAVY SEALs training footage, ends with a touching tribute to the real soldiers portrayed on-screen, and the protagonists in the story are undeniably presented as heroes. That’s not to say that the movie discounts the effect warfare is having on Afghans who oppose the Taliban; quite the opposite is true. Berg and Luttrell’s portrayal of common Afghans encapsulates the violent and awkward middle ground so many innocent lives have been placed in.
Despite the many positive qualities of “Lone Survivor,” the movie is purposefully fixated on violence and sacrifice, and as a result, some audience members will have a hard time watching this film. If, however, you are looking for an experience that presents what soldiers truly endure, it’s difficult to imagine a purer vision of war than “Lone Survivor.”