A war movie, particularly a war movie that is the true story of a real group of men and women, is hard to make and hard to watch. Anything short of the truth is disrespectful, but the truth is hard to define, hard to acknowledge, hard to understand. Essentially, Lone Survivor is a hard story and a hard movie. It is the story of a small group of U.S. Navy SEALs --men proud in a workaday sort of way of being the toughest of the tough, of taking on impossible missions and carrying on in impossible situations-- and the few days in the high mountains of Afghanistan that left only one of those men alive to carry on as the Lone Survivor of the title.
But this is as much, maybe more, the story of the men who did not survive as it is the story of Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor who has told the story of his fallen comrades and their courage. It is the story of Matt Axelson, Danny Dietz, Erik Kristensen, Shane Patton, Michael Murphy and the others who died on that mountain. It is the story of men fighting at the end for their reputations, for their code and their legend, not for themselves, but for all the brave men who preceded them and all the brave men who will follow them.
This is also the story of a war that is not a "living room" war and not a newsreel war. Lt. Michael Murphy, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, sacrificed himself in a desperate -- and successful l-- effort to make radio contact with base. But back at the base a few days earlier he and his men were keeping in touch with home through e-mail and Instant Messaging. They carried the day to day joys of home with them into a place where getting a message through in the end would depend on an old man walking slowly through a war zone and the barely comprehensible kindness of strangers.
Lone Survivor is not a story about revenge, or victory, or easy answers. Instead it is a story about the loyalty of men who fight and live as brothers. It is a story about ideals, and the men of rare courage who will die rather than allow those ideals to be tarnished by compromise. And it is a story about faith, that in the end there is no such thing as a lone survivor.
See more film reviews and discussions at The Wild Geese Cinema group.
Read Neil F. Cosgrove's blog about Lt. Michael Murphy.