Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor is unlike any war movie I have ever seen. It begins with what looks like real footage from military training. It immediately emphasizes the sense of brotherhood, an idea that continues to be emphasized throughout the rest of the movie.
Based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell, one of four Navy SEALs sent into the Afghan mountains to find a senior member of the Taliban, staking out the village where he is supposedly hiding, getting a positive ID on him, and moving in when the time is right. However, they are caught off guard when they are found by wandering shepherds. As if you didn’t already get a bad feeling because of this incident, from the moment they release the shepherds (whom they had briefly taken prisoner) you know something is going to go horribly wrong, even though the SEALs’ intention is to abort the mission.
Despite their intentions to abort the mission and move on, the four SEALs find themselves surrounded by a small Taliban army, and are engaged in a gunfight that goes well for the SEALs at first, but starts to go south when one of them (the one calling for help) basically gets his fingers shot off. Then another proceeds to get shot in the shoulder, and it continues to go only severely downhill from there.
While there are some lighter moments (like when they’re all hazing the new guy, or when Marcus is trying to explain to a fellow SEAL that an Arabian horse is not called an “Arabic horse”), this movie is intense from start to finish. The brutality of the war in Afghanistan is portrayed from the beginning, and it never lets up. There are moments when the suspense, the violence, and high-charged emotions you will probably feel as an audience member (at some point or other) keep you firmly planted on the edge of your seat.
There are several amazing things about this movie. One is how many times the SEALs should have all died and didn’t (though by the end of the movie, only Mark Wahlberg’s character is alive). Another is how the men work together and, many times, save each other. Yet another is how determined four men are to stay alive while fighting a small army, their chances looking grim at best. They believe very strongly in their cause, however, and they will not go down unless they are fighting with everything they have. The way these men are portrayed (both in general and during specific scenes), every time one of them dies, your heart breaks just a little more. The most devastating of all moments was when air rescue arrived, only for one helicopter to effectively get blown out of the sky, and the other to flee the scene without ever having landed. The hopelessness is almost overwhelming. Finally, this movie is very powerful in how it handles war and humanity. It shows that war is brutal, and it also shows that people can be good, risking their lives for others, even in the midst of the most dangerous situations they could possibly be in (for example, members of an Afghan village – particularly a man and his young son – bravely standing against the Taliban and keeping Mark Wahlberg’s character alive).
In general, I can understand why it’s rated R (there’s a lot of violence, and more F-bombs than I have ever heard in one movie). I also understand why it was rated so highly by critics and audience members (4/5 or 5/5 stars on many websites I’ve checked). If I had to pick one thing I didn’t like, though, it would be the very frustrating fact that it was very difficult for me to tell any of the SEALs apart. All four of them looked basically the same, expect Mark Wahlberg because he’s…well, Mark Wahlberg. While there were times when this movie was almost too intense for me to handle, it is well worth watching and I highly recommend it. It is an incredible story, and I fully intend to read the book.