Release date: June 9th, decease 2014
Running time: 121 minutes
Director: Peter Berg
Writers: Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell, Patrick Robinson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
On the night June 27th, 2005, a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team descended somewhere in between Sawtalo Sar and Gatigal Sar in Afghanistan. The members of the team were Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, Gunner’s Mate Second Class Class Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician Second Class Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman First Class Marcus Luttrell and as they were moving to a watch point they were discovered by a group of local goat herders. After determining they were civilians, and not combatants Luttrell let them go, but within a couple of hours the SEAL Reconnaissance and Surveillance team was ambushed by Ahmad Shah’s men.
Lone Survivor, based on Marcus Luttrell’s account and ghostwritten by Patrick Robinson, recounts the events of that night to tell us a heroic story of ordinary men in extraordinary situations. It focuses on the choices that had to be made on the spot and the consequences that followed them, as well as camaraderie that’s forged between soldiers when grouped together in these life or death situations. Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of Luttrell, the hospital corpsman and sniper of the four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team, SEAL Team 10. It’s a role that seems to suit him perfectly as we’ve seen him playing the soldier and law enforcer is so many of his other films. He’s joined by Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz and Ben Foster Matthew Axelson.
From the outset Lone Survivor is an American war film and its heroes and villains are very clear. It’s the Americans verses the Taliban and it’s something we take for granted without ever questioning. We’re given no justifications for why these are the heroes and we take it as fact that the other men are guilty with what they’re charged with without ever seeing evidence of this. The first part of the film is somewhat tiresome to watch as we’re shown how the team bond with each other through their training and the little time-off they have. They message with their girlfriends back home, they play video games and make plans for the future, but given the film’s title and we know from this failed mission, not everyone’s gonna make it back.
Tasked with the mission to take out Ahmad Shah, the mission however goes awry and we see how quickly communication breaks down as the men try to get clarification on what to do next. Without being able to get the information they need and in the time they need, it costs them dearly as they delay the decision to either kill the local goat herders or let them go. Faced with such a moral dilemma, this perhaps is where Lone Survivor excels, but apart from that I found little else to be of any value in this story.
Aside from the obvious propaganda, there are just some things that don’t ring true in Luttrell’s account of what happened, or in Berg’s adapted screenplay. For example, who exactly was Ahmad Shah connected to? Was he an al Qaeda leader? Was he working with Gulbadin Hekmatya, or was he with the Taliban? There wasn’t a very clear distinction of this in the film or the press notes and other reviewers don’t really seem to agree on which camp he was based with as it’s all the same to them, but I find this to be a vital piece of information, as well as the other cleverly omitted piece of tidbit regarding which US organisation helped fund and train each of these groups to begin with – the CIA.
As well as that, the lengthy shootout scenes we encounter in Lone Survivor makes up for the majority of the film and it’s not particularly engaging or insightful. We don’t need to see that much of it, it doesn’t build drama and it doesn’t help to progress the story. All it does is help sell us a fictional story carefully crafted with standard cardboard characters and stock actors. From all of the other reviews I’ve read of this film I can only conclude that the mainstream Hollywood studios have accomplished what they set out to do, backed by its own government – dumb down an entire nation with heavy handed propaganda that makes them believe these wars are being fought for their freedom. They’re wrong, look closely at Lone Survivor and see what they’re not telling you – war is always fought AT the cost of our freedom and not FOR it.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .