Navy Seals are in some ways the face of the U.S. military. They are given the most dangerous missions, are put up against the most impossible odds, and are almost regarded as superheroes. Lone Survivor shows some of the reasons why the Seals are looked at that way, and does a better job than any movie I've seen of portraying who the Seals are and what they stand for. This film is brutally violent and is at many times hard to watch, but it paints an unflinching portrait that makes for intense and moving viewing.
The movie follows the true story of Marcus Luttrell and his four man squad of Seals that were deployed to eliminate the Taliban commander Ahmad Shahd. The operation should have been simple, and everything was going to plan until some goat-herders stumbled upon the Seals at their position. The Seals had two options: violate the rules of engagement and execute their hostages, or set them free and hope to be extracted before the goat-herders could warn the Taliban in the village. Marcus, the team leader, decided to set them free and make for the mountain top. However, the Taliban, with their superior knowledge of the mountain terrain, reached the summit before them. Then began an intense struggle for survival that would only leave one Seal alive.
As soon as the Seals spring into action and begin combat, you see why the Seals are revered so much. Despite everything that happens to them, from falling off of cliffs to being shot and battered beyond recognition, they never once show any signs of despair or giving up. After one particularly painful tumble, once they had picked themselves up, one Seal simply said "Well that sucked.", and they kept on fighting despite the broken bones. It's a simultaneously inspiring and sad sight; we admire their bravery, but know that almost all of them will meet their demise. And when they do meet their demise, we are forced to watch until they are struggling to draw a few more mouthfuls of air. It is gut-wrenching to watch, but really makes you appreciate the sacrifice that the soldiers were willing to make for their country.
Also, unlike 2012's Act of Valor, we genuinely feel a connection to the characters. From the first scene of the film these characters feel like living, breathing people. We see them eating together, racing each other, and just doing things that soldiers on a military base would actually do. The acting is great, with Ben Foster as a particular standout for me. He was a very complex character. The first time we see him, he's sending romantic texts to his wife. Within a few minutes, he becomes the most intense combatant of the group. He was the one who voted to kill the hostages, due to his relentlessly practical attitude and drive to complete the mission. Mark Wahlberg, playing Marcus, is just an all around "good guy" who is forced by his moral code to make the right decision. He ultimately makes the decision to set the prisoners free, due to the fact that he viewed it as wrong to kill them. The film leaves it open as to whether he made the right decision or not, but the moment kept with his character and revealed a lot about him as a person.
One of the only complaints I have about this movie is that occasionally, the way it delivers it's message is a bit ham-fisted. For instance, when we first see the Taliban commander, he is having a man executed with a machete, in very brutal fashion. Now, while I don't agree with the complaints people have with this politically, from a movie making standpoint this is a poor decision. It deviated from the rest of the film, which was directly from the seals' perspective, to say "Oooo, this guy's really bad! He cut off a guy's head with a machete!" It was an unintelligent way to show the villainy of the commander, so much so that it removed any sort of fear that the audience might have of the character. It was too overt. This happened a few times throughout the movie, but for the most part the movie was very thoughtful, making those parts stand out a bit more. Overall it didn't detract from the film as a whole, however.
Before I wrap this review up, there is one more thing I have to mention: the soundtrack. The soundtrack to this movie was composed by Explosions in the Sky and Steve Jablonsky. Now, I am slightly prejudiced, because of my love of EITS, but this movie has one of my favorite soundtracks of any movie. The soft, instrumental, and slightly triumphant sounds of Explosions in the Sky mesh perfectly with what is taking place onscreen, and just made the film all the more emotional.
This film has gathered a lot of controversy since it has been released. Liberals have been condemning it as a "jingoistic" film that paints a picture of "brown guy bad, white guy good". While this film is brutal, it by no means glorifies the violence. This film has been made to show the sacrifices made by our armed forces to protect us, and to show how these missions don't always go as planned. It displays the unwavering bravery and heroism of those who have died protecting out country. And that is something special. 9/10
CONTENT: This is a very violent movie. Deaths are usually accompanied by blood, and the deaths of the seals are drawn out and very hard to watch. There is no sexual content. Language is also extreme, with strong language pretty much constantly throughout the film.