Friday, May 16, 2014

Lone Survivor (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes is totally enamored by this brutal 'mission gone wrong' war flick

The United States Navy Seals training is the most difficult army training in the world. I could never survive 1 hour, let alone the weeks that the brave recruits endure in the most adverse conditions. To become a Navy Seal, requires the toughest endurance from anyone who becomes a member of the elite team. This movie shows what these soldiers endure even in the worst of scenarios. 

Lone Survivor is the tragic true story of Operation Red Wings which has a team of 4 Seals sent into an Afghanistan town to recon for a Taliban commander. The four man team, led by Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) has Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt 'Axe' Axelson (Ben Foster) dropped in for an 3-4 hour hike, take the necessary photos and establish the whereabouts of the Taliban commander, get back to the pick up point and get back to base. What the team does not count on is a goat herder and his two sons stumbling upon the Seals position. Now the question is, kill the man and his sons, tie the man and his sons to trees and leave them there or cut them loose, beat it to the extraction point and take their chances. After a compelling but quick discussion, Murphy decides they will cut the civilians loose and take their chances getting to the extraction point. 

The Seal team just hopes that these people are not sympathetic to the Taliban. The Seals are wrong. 

Soon there are upwards of over 200 Taliban closing in on the Seals position and a virulent gun battle ensues. The battle in Lone Survivor takes place mostly in the rock laden hills and mountains of Afghanistan as the Seal team tries to make it to the pick up point. Wounded and running low on ammunition the Seal heroes fight valiantly but to no avail. I won't say much more about the film's plot because there is more to it than just the battle. What these Seals endure is staggering. All 4 men are shot numerous times and still they fight. The Seals jump off of cliffs risking broken bones, rather than give up or be taken prisoner. Only the kindness of an Afghan farmer and his son save what is left of the Seal team. 

Yes, Lone Survivor is a tough film to watch just like Black Hawk Down. Both are not about the fight as much as they are about survival of the human spirit, brotherhood and honor. The battle scenes are as harrowing and brutally unrelenting on par with Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan. Maybe not as big or extravagant as those two films but the bloody intensity is every bit as palpable. 

Peter Berg is showing himself to be a A list director and his script based on the book Lone Survivor by Seal Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson is smart, authentic and a fitting homage to those brave men that gave all on that mountain in Afghanistan. The editing is stellar, its so good it earned the movie two Academy Award nominations for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. 

This is an awesome war film from start to finish and it does not take long before I was totally invested in the characters of the Seal team. These were good honorable men; tough, resilient, resourceful and what heroes are made of. Director Berg knows this and shows the Seal team at their best in the worst of situations. 

Luttrell, to this day still keeps in touch with the Afghan who saved his life, Mohammad Gulab. Its told, Mr. Gulab visits Luttrell once a year and Mr. Luttrell is currently trying to get a Visa for Gulab and his son. Berg shows that honor is not just an American trait, as in when Gulab saved Mr, Luttrell, he did so at great risk to his own family, not to mention the entire village. Operation Red Wings was a disaster but Lone Survivor is a fitting tribute to those whose valiance will always be remembered. 


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