Director: Peter Berg
Screenplay: Peter Berg from Marcus Luttrell’s- ‘Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10’
Cast: Mark Wahlberg (Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch (Mike Murphy), Ben Foster (Matt Axelson) and Emile Hirsch (Danny Dietz)
Rating: R- Strong bloody war violence and pervasive language.
Runtime: 121 min
Released: 10th January America, India 17th January
Even after blogging for almost two years I always have a problem finding a good line for the title I am posting, this has become my one my biggest setbacks. Speaking of problem, Peter Berg’s new blockbuster movie ‘Lone Survivor’ is no different! Berg unwittingly creates a problem, right from the start.
For 3 minutes and 34 seconds (to be exact) at the very beginning of the movie, Berg ‘s ‘Lone Survivor’ opens with actual footage of Navy SEALs training of BUDS class 234 . I would like to say a mistake because when we’re watching a movie based on reality, we usually don’t get to do a side-by-side comparison of the reality and the fictional account. The real footage tells us dozens of stories in less than four minutes: the faces of these brave individuals, the fire burning in their eyes, the determination in their brows, the tears streaming down their faces as they teeter on the edge of breaking. While the opening is effective, for sure, it also somewhat dilutes the whole movie because the images stay with you for the rest of the movie.
Adapted from the nonfiction book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10,” by former United States Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor chronicles a tragic story of survival against terrorist forces in a mountainous region outside of Asadabad, Afghanistan.
Tasked with reconnoissance in a joint military operation in late June, 2005 to capture or kill local militant leader and Taliban associate named Ahmad Shah, code-named ‘Operation Red Wings’ . Four Navy SEAL operatives – SO2 Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), LT Michael P. Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), SO2 Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and SO2 Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) set up surveillance between the Sawtalo Sar and Gatigal Sar mountain peaks. Before they descended to the valley, the quartet was discovered by three goatherds (in the movie we saw one man with a radio and two teenage boys, but in the book there were two men, one with an axe and a boy); after a tense argument, Murphy decides to cut them loose. They evacuate the area, but one of the boys runs to tell the Taliban. The team is soon discovered and end up in one long firefight pursued relentlessly across the mountain region by a vast and well-armed Taliban force wielding AK-47s and RPGs.
I love reading the book by the lone survivor- Marcus Luttrell and listen to the audio book. One suggestion: If you are not blind, I strongly urge you to grab the book and read it first before seeing this movie. The audio book well it’s good, but you will miss chunks of paragraphs and that’s sad!
I saw the movie after six hours it was officially released in America (don’t ask me how, better search the torrent sites), 7 days before it was released here in India on 17th January. I was eagerly waiting for the movie for many months after knowing that Peter Berg is making the movie at the same time worried Berg might fuck it up like his 2012 ‘Battleship’. One of the other things that worried me was that it might turn out to be a typical Hollywood war movie, with archetypal characters and some kind of big speech at the climax. But it wasn’t a typical Hollywood war movie. It is about morality and the cost and a mission gone wrong: relentlessly violent, bloody, gruesome, gruelling, horrifying, absolutely realistic and a 2,000 year old code of honor among Afghan villagers called Pashtunwali where they undertake the responsibility of protecting an individual at all costs which saved Marcus from the Taliban.
One of the good things about “Lone Survivor” is that there isn’t a big rousing speech from the star. Instead, there was a short line. But it seized me and I just can’t shake it. It is delivered on the bloody mountain, a request from one wounded SEAL to another, asking, simply that a message be sent to his wife: Matt Axelson: “If I die I want you to make sure that Cindy knows how much I love her, and that I died with my brothers with a full fucking heart.” [1:20:15 sec]
Some of the best quotes from the movie:
Shane Patton: Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards. [19:44 sec]
Shane Patton: I’m a lover, I’m a fighter, I’m a UDT Navy SEAL diver. I’ll wine, dine, intertwine, and sneak out the back door when the refueling is done. So if you’re feeling froggy, then you better jump, because this frogman’s been there, done that and is going back for more. [19:48 sec]
Marcus Luttrell: The rules of engagement says we cannot touch them.
Matt Axelson: I understand. And I don’t care. I care about you. I care about you. I care about you. I care about you. [42:34 sec]
Marcus Luttrell: Hey, Mikey. I’m about ready to punch that time card. [54:30 sec]
Danny Dietz: Messed up my drawing hand, that pisses me off [1:02:34 sec]
Marcus Luttrell: Suck it the fuck up, okay, Danny? You’re a fucking frogman [1:05:58]
Matt Axelson: [while sighting in a Taliban fighter] You can die for your country, I’m gonna live for mine. [1:11:28 sec]
Erik Kristensen: Let’s go, guys. Everybody. Let’s move. Let’s really move. [1:17:58 sec]
Matt Axelson: We’re good right?
Marcus Luttrell: Fuck yeah. We’re solid. [1:20:5 sec]
Marcus Luttrell: If I don’t go home, you don’t go home. [1:35:18 sec]
Marcus Luttrell: ..you are never out of the fight. [1:51:53 sec]
In an effort to bring Marcus Luttrell’s recount of events to the big screen, Berg went through the arduous process of re-creating every single bullet wound and mountainside fall as accurately as possible, but if you looked closely [45:13 sec] before the Apache helicopter pilots take off to help the troops in contact (TIC) you can see green screen reflected by the helmet-mounted display (HMD) of the pilots.Also, you don’t need to be a fellow at the Royal Medicine Institute to know that the non re-breather bag which was placed on his face should be inflated before placing the oxygen reservoir to his mouth. Even nurse know that! [1:51:02 sec]
Superb performances from the cast, paired with subtle characterization of the actual SEALs, ensures that Lone Survivor isn’t just a violence-filled survival thriller, it’s a fitting honor to the men that lost their lives during Operation Red Wings (as well as the loved ones they left behind). When the movie had finished, as the credits rolled, there were photos of the actual SEALs and helicopter pilots and other soldiers who died in that fight. You see them with their wives, with their kids, you read their names. That was heart breaking!
There are plenty of other movies that show you the same thing, and “Lone Survivor” does little to set itself apart from them. Again, the real footage shown at the film’s beginning would’ve worked better had it been included when the end credits roll, the real following the pretend, rather than the other way around.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Lone Survivor”; it is likely to become a movie I watch over and over again.
I’m going with nine stars for Lone Survivor.
(Jorhat, 21st January, 2014)