Lone Survivor Review

The combat is appropriately intense and doesn't get too stupid.

I really enjoyed Lone Survivor. As an Afghan vet, I truly appreciated a lot of the movie's attention to detail and for depicting one of the war's more infamous battles. This reads a little more formal than I usually write for this is a draft of what's going in a local paper.

Director Peter Berg’s adaptation of the infamous 2005 battle in Afghanistan has a genuine feeling of authenticity and care. It’s more grueling than entertaining. Lone Survivor is a true story and mostly isn’t a “feel good” kind of film, it’s an intentionally stressful take on a real life event. This isn’t a pleasant movie to watch, but is an important display of the horrifying and adrenaline filled environment of combat. I mean those criticisms in the best way possible. All those elements combine into an experience with real emotional resonance.

Based on the memoirs written by Navy SEAL Medic Marcus Luttrell whom is also the protagonist, Berg’s film intelligently zeroes in on the battle itself and the four American men that fought it. Berg drops the audience into a brutal and unforgiving battle that took the lives of 19 servicemen, making it the most devastating day for Navy SEALs since WWII. It communicates a visceral, worst-case scenario situation like Black Hawk Down (2001) but a little less loud and bombastic.

Their reconnaissance mission was to scale a mountain in Afghanistan’s deadly Kunar province to identify insurgent leader, Ahmad Shah. The mission goes awry when the SEAL Team is discovered by goat herders. Despite having suspicions these herders are Taliban supporters, the SEALs are then faced with a difficult decision whether or not to kill the unarmed “civilians”.

The mission goes bad when the SEALs were caught by local Afghans.

Following their moral compass, the SEALs let the herders go and hopes karma will be kind to their mission. Immediately, these Afghans report to a Taliban group about the American’s location. The SEALs are virtually surrounded immediately.

Even for folks that aren’t familiar with the real events the film depicts, its very obvious where the movie goes by title and trailer alone. Lone Survivor’s major plot points aren’t a secret. However, Berg expertly maintains a high-level stress environment. The story arc knows that you are likely aware of Marcus Luttrell’s life, so it’s going to tell this story from the angle of the stress and agony the SEALs went through that day. This story is more about the journey than the destination.

A couple of times throughout the movie, the SEAL team has no other choice than to jump down a mountain to avoid being killed or captured by Taliban. In various real-life interviews, Marcus Luttrell explained that every time their body made contact with the ground, another few bones broke and most direct encounters with the enemy left a few more bullet holes in their bodies. Every broken bone, every gunshot, is gratuitously depicted for maximum impact.

Despite that, there’s very little gore. The visuals and sound design mold together in creative ways to make you aware of the wounds these men are receiving without being gross or exploitative.

Several actors were even injured during filming. The stunt coordinator didn’t use dummies or wires for the falling sequences. Kevin Scott, was charged with these sequences and to depict realism, he tasked his stuntmen with falling 15-20ft sometimes. To properly mimic how the SEALs fell, Scott wanted gravity to take over and told his stuntmen, “Wherever you fall, just go with it”.

It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes Lone Survivor shine. While I was not a part of Operation Red Wings, I have been to the region in Afghanistan the movie is supposed to be emulating. The environment is about as close as you can probably get and even the make-shift bases for some of the earlier scenes in the film are convincing enough to me as someone who has physically been in most of the real-world counterparts. Even just the attention to detail as to the brand of gloves the servicemen are wearing are spot on and everything blends together to make this movie probably as close as you can get without just watching actual combat footage from overseas.

I wonder if Luttrell actually wore a green top or if that's for you to separate who's the main character.

Lone Survivor doesn’t take too much time to expand on its characters for us to get a real glimpse into who these real men were. Instead it wants to communicate how a real battle took place and the inevitable bond lead character Marcus Luttrell forms with an Afghan man that rescues him. It’s the kind of story that on its own would seem too Rambo if it were fiction, but knowing that the film follows closely as to what Luttrell and military reports say what happened that day separates this movie from Call of Duty or interlacing jingoism and cements itself as a genuine movie that can stand proud next to other great war story interpretations like Band of Brothers.

Thanks!

@stevenbeynon

5 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by BisonHero

Ohhhh, this isn't about the Jasper Byrne game. I was really confused there for a bit.

I might have to check this movie out.

Posted by MB

Great writeup Steve! This was a great flick (and book) and I agree with your sentiments completely. I had the opportunity to meet Marcus Luttrell at a benefit event for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation a little while back and he's about as down to earth and a nice guy as you could ever meet, as one would expect.

I know it's easy to armchair quarterback these things after the fact, but I wish they would have dumped those goat herders and stayed alive. I don't want to say letting them live was a good or a bad decision but even Luttrell himself says today that he wishes they would have made a different decision.

Did you ever see Bravo Two Zero? It's a flick about the SAS during the first Gulf War, and essentially the exact same thing happened to the British troops as they were on a mission to sever a comm line along the MSR. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. One of my top ten movies of all time and probably one of the best war movies ever as well, but not something that a lot of people have seen (or know about)

/btdt

Moderator
Posted by Random45

Ohhhh, this isn't about the Jasper Byrne game. I was really confused there for a bit.

I might have to check this movie out.

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing for a bit before I realized that it was something different.

Edited by EpicSteve

@mb said:

Great writeup Steve! This was a great flick (and book) and I agree with your sentiments completely. I had the opportunity to meet Marcus Luttrell at a benefit event for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation a little while back and he's about as down to earth and a nice guy as you could ever meet, as one would expect.

I know it's easy to armchair quarterback these things after the fact, but I wish they would have dumped those goat herders and stayed alive. I don't want to say letting them live was a good or a bad decision but even Luttrell himself says today that he wishes they would have made a different decision.

Did you ever see Bravo Two Zero? It's a flick about the SAS during the first Gulf War, and essentially the exact same thing happened to the British troops as they were on a mission to sever a comm line along the MSR. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. One of my top ten movies of all time and probably one of the best war movies ever as well, but not something that a lot of people have seen (or know about)

/btdt

I'm jealous you got to meet him. With the goat herders, it's a tough decision. It would break geneva convention, and a lot of soldiers are in prison for murder, which that would technically be. Also a big problem would be if the Taliban discovered the bodies they could use that as anti-american propaganda. It's a shitty situation, I wish they acted differently. But I get their decision. I'll have to check that other movie out!

Edited by LucidDreams117

This film was terrible in my opinion. Rolling down the hill? Twice? It looked hilarious. I couldn't take it seriously. They all took way too many shots and for the movie based on a failed op, this whole thing reeked of 'merica! Fuck yeah!

Considering it's a film for mostly an American audience, it over glorified these four guys. I guess as a non-American, I have an outsider perspective to how these films really show off American soldiers. Which I guess isn't always bad.

I liked the first half of the movie. Little past the Shepard dilemma. And the end section was good but good God, I couldn't put up with how long these guys lasted against so many enemies. Reminded me of a video game. Jeezz.

It was laugh out loud funny when I read online how the actual encounter lasted no more than a few minutes.

actually, reminds me of the myth of the 300 Spartans. How they went up against so many and took down a lot of them. It inspires the viewer. Though at least that film didn't take itself too seriously.

Again, all my opinion. Don't mean to bring down those who liked it. :)