“Lone Survivor” Is A Harrowing Tale


HOLLYWOOD—War films are difficult to watch, but “Lone Survivor” is one of the most riveting war films that I have seen in quite some time. The true story of Marcus Luttrell hooks the audience within the first few minutes and doesn’t let go until the final moments. It’s the real-life story of a failed United States Navy Seals mission Operation Red Wings, during the war in Afghanistan, where four SEAL members were expected to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.

I’ve seen many pictures in 2013, but this one delivered some seriously raw emotions in me that left me flabbergasted. For starters, the picture opens with a collage of imagery depicting some of the physical demands of enlisting and serving the government.  It’s pretty raw in my depiction, which leaves the spectator a little uncertain of just where the picture is headed. When the audience is first introduced to our trope of main characters at their base, its obvious a brotherhood exists between SO2 Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), SO2 Danny Dietz (Emilie Hirsch) and SO2 Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster).  These guys are like brothers even though none of them are connected; it’s shown through the bit of playful torture they deliver to SO2 Shane Patton (Alexander Ludwig).  When their mission gets underway to search for Shah an unexpected encounter sets the stage for unforeseeable events that causes the mission to fall apart when the SEAL members are ambushed.

From the title alone, it’s a given that only one person is expected to survive, and as a viewer its something that you know will happen, but its seeing what leads to that grips you into the film. There were three obvious emotions I encountered when watching this movie: rage, hatred and hopelessness.  One moment I’m praying for the Americans to fight back and to win, the next minute I’m scowling because it’s not going to happen. The story plays with your emotions in a way that most films have difficulty doing. I never felt content watching this picture; it’s a constant up and down.

The battle scenes are quite gruesome and the violence is not bluntly in the audience’s face, but it’s bloody to say the least. Kitsch, Hirsch and Foster deliver some stellar work as soldiers willing to die for their country; Kitsch delivers some of his best work to date, as the level headed, but determined Lt. Murphy.

“Lone Survivor” reminded me of the 1986 Oliver Stone classic “Platoon.” I just immediately thought of that picture while watching this movie, as the grim circumstances took me back to that heroic flick.  Just when you are presented that glimmer of hope, something unexpected happens that yanks the audience back to reality.

Wahlberg’s performance is a bit one note in the first half of the movie in my opinion, but in that second half the actor delivers some amazing work that is speechless to describe. It’s heroic, fearless and dire all at the same time. His work definitely should shine a bit of buzz for a potential Oscar nod, rather he actually captures it is another story. One fascinating aspect that gripped me was the idea of not judging a book by a cover, I had a preconceived notion of what was about to transpire in the third act of the movie, but radically discovered not to assume based on what I think versus what I know.

Director Peter Berg captures the blunt-force of being in battle in a way that is so visceral and tense, that even though what feels already tense is heightened that much more. The narrative is a bit slow to start, but once it begins moving it’s at a fever pitch that does not let go. The viewer will be sutured into the minds of these characters, the families they have left behind and their hopes for the future. “Lone Survivor” is one of the deepest, in your face, war films that I have seen in a long-time. It’s gripping, and the tale told from the point of view of Marcus Luttrell is unforgettable to say the least.

By LaDale Anderson