FILM REVIEW: Lone Survivor
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana and Ali Suliman.
I always love the build-up of excitement of seeing a film that you don’t know a scrap of information about, you’ve just heard the name. No trailer. No poster. Because then you start making assumptions. For instance, I generally had no idea that Lone Survivor was a war film, though as the name suggests, I guessed it would involve the main character facing terrifying peril but surviving against all odds. On that part I was correct, but I also assumed, because of the “lone” part of the title that the film would only have one main protagonist, when in fact it is four Navy SEALs who’s surprising optimism and sense of brotherhood helped boost morale, and I believe, ultimately helped each other to survive for as long as they did.
There was something unsettling about Lone Survivor that I couldn’t put my finger on until the film had finished. It wasn’t the plot, which was easy to follow: four SEALs go into the isolated Afghan mountains to track a notorious Taliban leader, only for their mission to go south, leaving them stranded with nothing to rely on but their own training, the weapons which they are carring and each other. It wasn’t the costume, make up or affects either which made the brutal wounds and setting of warfare a raw reality.
No, it was how close to home the tale of these four soldiers was that made the film so unnerving. It wasn’t some archaic tale about the, albeit very horrific, but nevertheless historic, World War Two. This centred on a war with Afghanistan and against the Taliban that is still raging as I write this, a topic that dominates our news bulletins at least once a week.
The film is naturally dogged with violence and tragedy but it does seem to take it to an extreme and excessive level, causing me to literally jump out of my seat at regular intervals as the impressive cinema sound system amplified the bangs of gun shots and explosions to a terrifying pitch. I found myself thinking “Nah he would never have survived his third fall down a jagged, steep cliff like that, he can’t have been shot again?! How are they still standing?!” and concluding that perhaps it should have been called the “Lone Corpse” instead. But then I realised that what an average citizen would describe as a “harrowing ordeal” makes up the daily lives and careers that our armed forces face on a regular basis. The violence is merely part of it.
“The Lone Corpse” wouldn’t have been a suitable name at all, because, as my friend told me as the opening scene started, Lone Survivor is an inspirational true story based on the American SEAL’s Operation Red Wings, a recount of Navy SEAL, Marcus Lutterell, who has been awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in Afghanistan, and his team’s fight for their lives. True stories are always more emotional; it’s harder to see it as entertainment and escapism as someone actually experienced what these characters are portraying. But the resilience and resourcefulness of these men is truly powerful and moving, though the undue violence does distract from their personal plight.
What’s more touching and a real eye-opener is the portrayal of a humble and selfless Afghan villager by Ali Suliman, who comes to the aid of one of the men. The film strays from the usual mistakes films, especially Hollywood, sometimes make, stereotyping all people of a foreign enemy country as “evil” and Americans as the true heroes. Lone Survivor does the story upon which it’s based justice, and shows the plight of the average Afghan citizen against the Taliban as being just as traumatic as the American SEAL’s suffering.
Photos of the fallen soldier’s real life counter parts at the end brings all the dramatization back to harsh reality and makes for a hard hitting and truly thought- provoking ending and leaves a slightly unresolved but awe-inspired feeling.
Watch the trailer for the Lone Survivor below: