I really wanted to write this review as soon as I saw the movie Lone Survivor last weekend. Not only did life get in the way (as usual), but I also found that every time I thought about the film it was still so raw for me. My feelings and emotions were put through the ringer with this one.
The film Lone Survivor was adapted for the screen from the book of the same name written by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson. Luttrell is the actual lone survivor of a Navy SEAL operation that took place in 2005 in Afghanistan. I haven’t read the book (but now plan to, plus Griffin asked for it after seeing the movie) so cannot say how much artistic license was taken with the movie. I do know that there are a few scenes (very few and very short) that Luttrell is not in hearing distance or sight of another character that later dies, so if those scenes really played out as portrayed is anyone’s guess. I appreciate that the writers and director kept those scenes to a minimum and only put them in where they had to in order to move the story forward without leaving the audience in limbo.
Before I get into the movie let me talk a little about the awesome cast and crew, starting with the director and cowriter of the adaptation, Peter Berg. You guys, I cannot tell you how much I love Peter Berg! My love affair with him started back in the early 90’s when I saw him in Late for Dinner. I just wanted to be his big sister and take care of him (although he’s older than me). About a year later I saw him again in A Midnight Clear and decided he was (is) one of my generation’s underrated actors. About 5 or 10 years ago I started seeing his name in a more behind the scenes capacity and I was truly happy that he had found his niche in Hollywood.
The stars of this movie…oh the stars. The four men that were part of the SEAL team are played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster. My hope is that the people who may not be interested in a “war movie” will find their way to the theater to check out the eye candy, and while there get an education on what the men and women in our military and their families go through.
I have an affinity for military/war movies so have seen a lot of them. Some of them have been based on actual events and some have been totally fictitious. I don’t play favorites for one or the other. I do find that, while I love the genre as a whole, some of the movies can bore me to tears. I understand politics play a huge role in the military and wars, but a filmmaker really needs to strike a nice balance between the dry politico speak and the nitty-gritty action. Peter Berg did a wonderful job of striking that balance. Granted, there wasn’t a lot on the political side of this one. But the explanations of tactics and such were detailed enough that I understood what was going on and not too detailed that I zoned out.
The camera angles used once the fighting starts really pulled me in and made me flinch. There are many scenes of falling down steep hills and over rocks that made me feel the hits and bruises. I was not the only one. We were in a theater with a relatively respectful and calm audience, but those shots definitely brought out the Ohs! and shocked gasps of a good portion of us. That’s the sign of a good director. It really got the adrenaline going! And just when you think you can breathe, something else happens. The whole time I’m thinking how crazy it is that these guys REALLY went through this. They lived this while we were sitting at home watching The Office and laughing with our families. And there are many more men and women still out there protecting us and our country.
As much as I loved all of the middle parts, the beginning and end were my favorites and were what had me in tears. It starts out showing real candidates in SEAL training. It shows big, tough, solidly built men breaking down. It shows them learning to work as a team and learning to become leaders at the same time. Knowing my little guy has aspirations to go in that direction made me both proud and terrified.
The end tore my heart out and stomped all over it. They showed photos of all of those who lost their lives during that mission. They showed names, ranks, ages. They showed official photos and family snap shots. They showed these young men as not just soldiers and sailors, but also as humans – dads and sons and brothers. I cannot express how impressed I was that all involved made sure to wait until these brave men got their recognition before rolling the credits. In most cases, when movies shows pictures of the real people the story involves, you get quick flashes to the side or behind credits. Not here. They were sure to give each young man not only a full screen, but plenty of time. It broke my heart and filled it with love at the same time.
I highly recommend Lone Survivor. If you are like me and rarely go to see movies on the big screen, please do yourself a favor and get it as soon as it releases on DVD. Although I think it is worth seeing in the theater. I will caution, this movie is rate R with good reason. While I used my judgment and knew my son would be fine seeing this movie, not all kids (even teenagers) will be okay with the situations portrayed. If in doubt, please watch this without the kiddos first.