A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


January 11, 2014

Recommendation: "Lone Survivor", The Movie

     I couldn't wait to see this movie.  After reading the book three times and shaking hands with Marcus Luttrell, himself, I so wanted this movie to honor the men of Operation Red Wings.  It did just that.
     In case you are one of the few who have not read the #1 Best-Seller and detailed account of the failed Navy Seal mission in the mountains of Afghanistan, then you have denied yourself one of the most mesmerizing reads of your life.  The four-man team, consisting of Michael Murphy, Matt Axelson, Danny Dietz, and Marcus Luttrell, were tasked with capturing or killing Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.
     The book is an eyewitness account of the team's engagement with a superior Taliban force after they were walked up on by an Afghani goat-herder and his sons.  The movie, as depicted in the book, reveals the outcome of the team's decision regarding the failed mission.
(left to right); actors portraying Axelson, Dietz and Luttrell 
     The ensuing fire fight and the deaths of his team-mates on that steep, rugged mountain (along with a rescue team of 16) are written with such poignancy by Luttrell, and movie director Peter Berg is able to translate that emotion to film.  I didn't think the movie could depict the injuries the men received, nor their commitment to each other, as well as my imagination could conceive them.  But I was wrong.  The battle scenes on the mountain are some of the most realistic and raw sequences in the movie.  If you want to "feel" the physical effects of war, it doesn't get any more intense than this.
     But it is the relationship between Marcus Luttrell and his teammates -- their professionalism, their duty to country, and their love for each other -- that is at the heart of the story.  It is obvious that each of the actors took their roles seriously.  These are real, bigger-than-life heroes they are playing, after all, and they needed to get it right.  I'm sure you know that I have an active imagination, and Marcus had done a good job in the book of fleshing out the personalities and character of each of his friends.  I was curious to see if I would be as moved by an actor's portrayal.  They did not disappoint.
    In director Berg's own words, "This story is about working together for something bigger than our ego, bigger than our individuality. It’s about coming together as a group—protecting each other, loving each other, looking out for each other—and finding a greater strength as a team than you could ever find as an individual. Marcus [Luttrell] wrote a book that, as much as it’s about 19 people being killed on a tragic day in Afghanistan, is about brotherhood, sacrifice and team commitment."
Marcus and Gulab
     If I have any criticism of the movie at all, it is this: I would have liked to see the movie expanded an additional 30 minutes or more in order to develop the relationship between Marcus and his Afghani rescuer Gulab.  The ancient ethical code of the Pashtun tribe (Pashtunwali) includes a principle of asylum called Nanawatai.  It was this principle that demanded that Gulab offer protection to Marcus against his enemies, the Taliban.  The tribal chief protected him, fending off the attackers until word was sent to nearby US forces, and the wounded Luttrell was ultimately rescued.
     It almost felt as if the movie worked hard to develop the camaraderie between the men, and accurately depict the ambush and battle scenes, and then realized the conventional two-hour limit had been reached.  Therefore, to me, the ending seemed rushed.
     I am also seeing comments that facts have been altered in the movie, such as Marcus's death scene, his capture and the number of Taliban assailants.  This is the way I see it... we know this is Hollywood, right?  It is the very nature of movies to change things to "translate better on film."  And, if Marcus Luttrell, the man who lived this story and served as consultant, approves of the alterations, then who are we to say the movie is "inaccurate."  It is called a "movie", after all; not a documentary.
     In the end, I left the theatre feeling that Lone Survivor, the movie, accurately portrayed the honor, courage and commitment of our military.  Having heard Marcus Luttrell, himself, speak several times of the events of those hours and days, this movie has nothing to be ashamed about.  You will be moved and inspired by the dignity with which these men's sacrifice was portrayed.  Go see it!

2 Timothy 1:7    "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

2 comments:

  1. I did see this movie on Friday. I'll admit right off that I didn't want to go...my husband has been wanting to see this since we heard about it, and I only reluctantly went along with him, vowing to "not watch" the parts I knew were going to upset me too much. But I'm here to tell you, you can NOT watch this movie. Once you get to know these men, and the movie does a great job of getting us to CARE about what happens to them right off the bat, you can't not be there for them throughout the film. I envy you, that you got to tell Marcus to his face, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," for the freedoms that he and his fellow SEALS have bought for us with their sacrifices.

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    1. Patricia, just like Mark Wahlberg says, "Everyone should have to see this movie". And like you, I was worried about how I would hold up during what I knew would be the difficult scenes to watch. But instead of my own feelings, I found myself thinking about their wives and parents seeing this, and how difficult it must be for them to see their loved ones' deaths played out on screen.

      And although I did get the opportunity to thank Marcus personally, I am struck with two thoughts about that ... 1) My words were inadequate. He and his teammates deserve much more than a simple "thank you" from the likes of me. 2) He doesn't really want my thanks. As he has said in so many interviews, they were doing their job. They don't really think about us when they do it, and what is really kind of sad to me, I don't think he will ever know how much we appreciate their answering the call. They are a breed apart; men that we will never really understand because they keep themselves separate from the rest of us. Although he doesn't really want our thanks, it won't stop Americans from caring about them; honoring them; being inspired by them; and wanting to hear every story they can about their heroic exploits. It may be a job to them, but they represent America and we take great pride in them.

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