There are some movies that should be required viewing for everyone. Not because they are necessarily good, mind you, but because that the information or message that they are trying to pass on is worthwhile. Recently, 12 Years a Slave was one of these films, in my opinion, and I think that Lone Survivor just might be one as well.
This film tells the true story of Marcus Luttrell and three other US Navy SEALs and the failed Operation Red Wings, in which they were tasked to track Taliban leader Ahmad Shah but were discovered and subsequently attacked, resulting in the death of all but Luttrell.
Disclaimer: I have nothing but respect for the members of our armed forces and am incredibly thankful for the sacrifices that they and their families have made. Any criticisms expressed here are of the film, not of the SEALs themselves or the system in general.
The opening credits of the film seemed to be confused on the message it was trying to send. A montage of various training sessions with these Navy SEALs and the trials they go through is shown to us, but I don’t know what the takeaway is supposed to be: the soldiers work hard? The soldiers are mistreated? The training process is cruel and rigorous? These men are super tough? They have a strong brotherhood among them? Or is it all of the above? The scene that this montage transitions into – the four men that we spend the rest of the film with waking up in their living quarters and going about their daily routines – would have been a much more powerful opening scene than the confusing montage itself.
Opening aside, all four men are fantastic. Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster, to be more specific. They all convinced me that their relationship as close friends, nearly brothers, in this situation was completely real, and I hurt for them when I saw them suffer together and lose one another one by one.
However, I thought that the first half of the film in general was too uneven. There was a lot of jumping around from place to place, military talk that I didn’t necessarily understand, and it was just not very well put together. I didn’t start to truly appreciate the film until the action kicked up, and not necessarily because of the action, but because it didn’t shy away from the realities of war. We see these men responding to situations in real time and working off of each others’ strengths to increase their chances of survival…whether they were successful or not. The fighting and violence is brutal, but it never seemed overly gratuitous or unnecessary to me, and it certainly didn’t revel in the gore either.
The final ten minutes are the most potent of the film, with Wahlberg’s “thank you” to the men who saved his life serving as an incredibly emotional moment. I was hurt because of the sacrifices made by all parties involved – both the SEALs and the local villagers – but I was also thankful.
Lone Survivor is not a fun watch, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think that it is an important one. Granted, I’m not well-versed in the specifics of war and cannot speak on the accuracy of the events depicted in the film, but it made me thankful for the life I live thanks to the men like this who give their lives for me daily, and, for that reason, I have to recommend it – if you can stomach it.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
MPAA: R – for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language