After his work on the outstanding The Kingdom, we can see why Marcus Luttrell thought Peter Berg was the perfect person to bring his astounding story to the big screen. At its core, Lone Survivor tells the tale of Luttrell and three fellow Navy SEALs who were dropped behind enemy lines in Afghanistan and were ambushed. Through their struggle to survive, they embody the words heroism, bravery and so much more. But, Lone Survivor is also about brotherhood and the sacrifice and extreme personal power it takes to even become a Navy SEAL.
Mark Wahlberg plays Luttrell, and we meet him and several members of his team, including Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz, Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy and Ben Foster as Matt “Axe” Axelson, as they are stationed in Afghanistan ready to answer the call of duty. They are part of a unit that knows the risks and heads into harm's way anyway, led by Commander Erik Kristensen (an impressive Eric Bana).
As the Lone Survivor trailer teases, they have gotten word that a high profile Taliban leader -- who we learn is responsible for dozens of deaths of American soldiers -- will be at a certain remote mountain locale. With Luttrell and his three comrades, military brass believes they can take him out.
Once they are on land, they encounter a group of goat herders. The mission is compromised. As shown in the Lone Survivor movie trailer, they elect to let the men and boys go… because they are not in the business of killing children. It turns out to be a potentially fatal mistake. Before long, our heroes are ambushed and the inspirational fight for survival begins.
Berg has mastered his craft, and as a fellow actor (he even has a cameo), he keenly understands their needs and how to get the absolute best performance out of even the smallest role. And the precious time he spent with Luttrell writing the screenplay, based on Luttrell’s Lone Survivor book, shows on every frame of film. The writer-director manages to capture what it takes to become a Navy SEAL and how extreme these warriors are when it comes to doing what it takes to fight for their country… and keep each other alive.
Wahlberg astounds as the title character. And yes, it may seem a bit weird that the moniker of the movie gives away the ending, but it doesn’t matter. The audience is still keenly invested in what is going on, and perhaps because we know how this will end (Berg even begins the movie with Wahlberg’s evacuation after rescue), it makes what the audience goes through while watching what these men go through, all the more powerful. It is an almost insurmountable task that will have your jaw dropping throughout.
Berg bookends the film with video footage of real Navy SEALs training for their “thank God we have them” missions and video interviews with the families left behind by those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Our Lone Survivor review finds it a powerful true tale that will only add to the revered nature we have for Navy SEALs and what they do for our country. Men like Luttrell, Dietz, Murphy and Axelson are paid the utmost tribute in having their story told to the world by a director who inherently knows their struggle and a cast who keenly knows the honor it is to play them. It is a film that is not only one of the great war movies of our time, but also the ultimate tribute for fallen soldiers because of the permanency that is the medium of film.