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.
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Admin Comment by Joe Gannon on January 23, 2014 at 11:29pm
Like so many soldiers who have been awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, the act by which he earned that medal was not about how much he loved his country, though he no doubt did love it very much, or how much he believed in the cause he was fighting for in Afghanistan, though he may have believed in it very much. It was about how much he loved the men he was fighting alongside that day and how much he was willing to sacrifice to save them, which was everything, including his life.
Excellent review, Sarah. Thanks so much for this. I'm both looking forward AND not looking forward to watching this film.
Thank you Sarah, I believe that it is impossible to truly understand the cameraderie and true bond of soldiers in any war situation without having experienced it oneself, irrespective of the skills of a film Director, Script writers, Producer and crew, and of course the actors themselves.
This is a film worth seeing. And I'm glad that this seems to be a film audiences want to see. Relatively few of the recent fictional --or true-- attempts to portray the United States' most recent wars have managed to capture much of an audience. (Zero Dark Thirty did capture an audience. But I can think of few films more different than Zero Dark Thirty and Lone Survivor. Lone Survivor is human, bloody and disorientating. It also breaks all the narrative rules --the most memorable speech in Lone Survivor is given by a secondary character.)