My first exposure to the story of Marcus Luttrell and Operation Red Wings came when I caught the second half of a 60 Minutes Special about Luttrell’s amazing and gruesome tale of survival. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered a Major Motion Picture was being made about that story.
Lone Survivor is adapted from a non fiction book that shares its name. The book was penned by Luttrell himself along with ghostwriter Patrick Robinson. I have not read the book, but I imagine it would make an excellent read. As for the film, when I first saw the trailer for Lone Survivor, I was pretty sure that I would be going to see it early on in its theater run. Though I am eager to see the film, I do have my concerns. I am expecting a very close look at the subject matter centered around Luttrell’s account of the events, but I fear, as with any adaptation of a true story, that the finished product will end up with a few “Hollywood touches.” As for the cast, it includes a favorite of mine in Ben Foster. Which should help counteract my worries about Mark Wahlberg. Its not that I dislike Wahlberg’s work. It’s just that I feel his portrayals can be very “hit or miss.” I’m also a fan of director Peter Berg, and though I have seen some of his offerings as disappointments in the past, I believe he will do the source material justice. With the movie opening just a few days ago, I am making the trek out to the theater to see it with a few friends. One of which is none other than Geeky Faucet Podcast regular Mike.
Lone Survivor (2014) – Directed By Peter Berg – Starring Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch.
I am most certain that there will be some spoilers ahead, but I will do my best to keep major plot points out of this review. However, I am almost certain that the majority of those not familiar with the story will surmise the outcome from the title alone. Keep in mind that I am solely basing my opinions here on the film and its depiction of the story.
The film starts out with its opening credits set to a montage of SEAL training videos that will leave you with a deep seeded feeling of respect for what these men endure on their way to becoming the absolute best in American service men. We then get a peak at the outcome of what can only be described as a harrowing chain of events, as the filmmaker sets the stage for the coming two hours of gritty story telling. The story progresses as we are introduced to the four main players, and shown a glimpse of their relationship with each other and with their team. Berg does a great job with pacing out the early parts of the film which allows you to understand the characters and connect to them in a way that makes you feel for these four, and for their entire team, as their mission takes a very unfortunate turn. Their objective is to neutralize a leader of an opposing faction, who has murdered numerous marines. They are dropped in the mountains of Afghanistan near the location of their target, and their orders are to make their way to his location and assassinate him. We get a very clearly presented look at the treacherous terrain, and the amount of time it takes for the four to make their way from checkpoint to checkpoint. Things go horrible wrong when a few local goat herders accidentally stumble upon the group while they are resting. What ensues is a race to contact the rest of their team and ask for extraction as they believe their mission, and theirselves, to be compromised. I won’t go in to detail on all that follows since it really is the core of the film. However, prepare yourself for a very realistic and visceral form of story telling throughout the remainder of the movie. The Director manages to bring a lot of action to the firefights without going over the top. I found it surprising that there wasn’t more dramatic flair on some of the more gut wrenching moments. It’s as if Berg wanted to let you the viewer feel the pain of the characters purely and without influence from any “added on” angst or sorrow. There is one action sequence or firefight late in the film that felt wedged in to add dramatic effect, but I suppose it served to give pomp to what otherwise would have seemed anticlimactic. However, it seemed like a departure from the previous handling of the material. There are also a few plot devices I would have preferred not to be in the film. The child in the third act felt a bit off. I would rather the film focused more on the Luttrell’s keeper. None of these things, however, detracted from the film enough to take me out of the experience. I also thought the run time was spot on. I never felt like it was running long or that it was being rushed.
Mark Wahlberg was excellent as the central character, though I would like to point out that the film never really points to Luttrell as the main character. You instead feel that this story aims to show respect to the whole team and lets you see it from their collective perspective. The cast as a whole held up their part of the bargain. Each member added to the film in their own way, and helped to make it enjoyable.
If you’re a fan of military themed movies, or enjoy truth based tales of unthinkable situations, this movie will satiate your appetite. The story really is worthy of the depiction it received. Time will tell if the depiction is worthy of the story…