If you go
“Lone Survivor,” rated R
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 121 minutes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch
Compared to the hazardous tasks performed around the world by members of our bravest and boldest, re-creating the kind of combat conditions they see in an accurate manner is nowhere near as difficult. Even so, staying true to their real encounters is no easy work, as seen in the harrowing depiction of real events within “Lone Survivor.”
In 2005, American troops are fully engaged with the war in Afghanistan, and among those soldiers risking their lives are the men of Navy SEAL Team 10. Their latest mission, known as Operation Red Wings, is to infiltrate enemy territory and find and kill a Taliban leader (Yousuf Azami) well known for the slaughter of many American military personnel.
With four of their best (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch) on the job, the objective should be a walk in the park. However, once the plan is in motion, the group runs into more problems than they anticipated — the hilly terrain leaves them without proper communication, their cover is limited and scouting reveals far more unfriendly forces than they’d like.
When their mission is compromised, the four of them must make a choice that could mean dishonor or their lives.
Although Wahlberg receives top billing as Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, the only one of this quartet to come home from his experiences — the movie’s title, based on Luttrell’s account of his time as a SEAL, probably tipped you off — it would be inaccurate to call him the star, since equal accolades go to all involved on the ground, especially since they view themselves as brothers.
They may be a scraggly-looking bunch, but they get the job done, with Kitsch as Lt. Michael P. Murphy, Foster as Petty Officer Matthew “Axe” Axelson and Hirsch as Petty Officer Danny Dietz, all of whom met their maker during the explosive action that occurred as they embarked on their dangerous duty.
With much of the first half of the film devoted to showing these guys at ease, passing time talking about their wives or girlfriends back home, working out or putting the new guy (Alexander Ludwig) in their squadron through a bizarre initiation, it’s a shock to the senses once we reach the point of no return as a firefight with the Taliban ensues in which our heroes are clearly outgunned with little chance of the cavalry saving them.
The direction by Peter Berg keeps the havoc as orderly as possible, sometimes too much so, as the formula goes thusly: guns fire, someone takes a bullet, things quiet down, someone says something profound only to be cut off by an enormous detonation, repeat.
For the most part, it feels real, and the depiction of a “never say die” attitude even when you’re staring into the abyss of certain defeat is one that appeals to everyone, something that definitely couldn’t be said of Berg’s 2012 bomb “Battleship,” which he supposedly agreed to make in order to get the green light on his latest.
What could be divisive is that telling stretch when Luttrell and his comrades make the decision to keep their consciences clean when they come across innocent civilians — a judgment call that may have sealed their fate — leaving some viewers to wonder if some facts were whitewashed. Later scenes with resistant Afghani villagers show that not everyone in the country is anti-American, pro-Taliban, though Luttrell’s experiences with these folks are a tad glossier than they need to be.
Although it comes close to Hollywood artifice every now and then, the heart of “Lone Survivor” is in the right place. No one knows but Luttrell what really went down eight years ago, but the following memorial to his fallen fellows — set to Peter Gabriel’s breathy cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” — says it all, letting us all take a moment to remember these men gave their lives for a noble cause, whatever the exact details.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.