They say war is hell. And nothing could be further from the truth as depicted in the events of this film. Not since Saving Private Ryan have I seen such a realistic display of the brutality of war. Writer/director Peter Berg adapted the book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, by former Navy SEAL Leading Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and writer Patrick Robinson.
Operation Redwing was a mission to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a feared Taliban leader, in June 2005. The mission started as a team of four was sent in on a nearby mountainside to do reconnaissance on the target. The team consisted of Luttrell, Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Gunner’s First Mate Second Class Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Second Class Petty Officer Matthew “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster). The mission begins flawlessly, but soon turns disastrous. Communications begin to falter, cutting them off from the command post and then the mission becomes compromised as a small group of goat herders come across their path. Knowing there is a possibility of them being aligned with the Taliban, the men are faced with a difficult moral decision. As they debate their mission’s purpose and the rules of engagement, they are faced with three choices. Ultimately deciding to let them go, the men move to higher ground in hopes of better reception to call in an extraction team. However, they soon find themselves trapped as they become heavily outnumbered and outgunned. This ensuing sequence is intense as the four men fight for their survival, trying to dodge bullets and RPG fire, jumping off the steep cliffs hitting trees, rocks and hard ground.
The performances are excellent and provided a sense of realism to the story. The direction did the story justice from the opening that told the origin of the mission to the gut-wrenching sacrifices these men made (and every military man and woman make in times of war) during their fight with the Taliban and to the final moments of the rescue operation of the lone survivor. The dialogue was real and added to the everyday moments these men had at their base to the heightened sequences of action throughout the film.
This remarkable true story of survival was one of the finest displays of heroism during impossible odds. The mission began like an ordinary reconnaissance mission, but soon nothing seemed to go as planned and quickly became a fight for survival. One could go back, and through a series of “what if’s,” could see a different outcome and these men would have more than likely survived the ill-fated mission.
If there is one flaw in the film, it is character development. Aside from seeing some SEAL training and camaraderie among the guys, there is very little we get to know about these men other than most of them have significant others. However, that does not belittle the story or narrative of the film. The film’s deep impact is not compromised and brings forth a strong account of military brotherhood, survival, and sacrifices this small group of heroes made and how one lived to tell the tale.