"You are never out of the fight."
(10 January 2014) Writer/Director: Peter Berg
Of all the things Lone Survivor is: a Super Soldier movie, a look at the Navy SEAL brotherhood, the dramatized story of "Operation Red Wings", the story of the survival of Marcus Luttrell, a lesson in humanity, a case for believing in God . . . what it is most, is a damn good Action Movie.
"A man's gotta know his limitations", but Navy SEALs are trained to go beyond theirs—Physically, mentally, emotionally, but not spiritually—that's a different matter. It must take a hell of a lot of heart to go through all that training, just so you can put your life on the line in the fight against evil. I don't believe you can train heart into a person. I've heard "Heroes are born, not made." I think the point of all that training is to make you face yourself. Until you've been there, you don't know what you're capable of. We watch, as we find out what this group, Seal Team Ten, faced, and what they did. It's called "Lone Survivor" but that doesn't mean those who didn't survive didn't 'win'.
After the opening montage, the first scene is of a helicopter flying over a barren landscape. As they transport an injured Mark Wahlberg (as real-life lone survivor Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell), his narration explains: "There's a storm inside of us . . . a burning, a river, a drive. An unrelenting desire to push yourself harder and further than anyone could think possible. Pushing ourselves into the cold, dark corners where the bad things live, where the bad things fight. We wanted that fight."
Thank you, God, that there are men who are willing to do this. The movie is a love story to the SEALs and to Super Soldiers—to any Soldiers or 'people' who are willing to fight with everything they are for a cause. Not only does a Navy SEAL need to be mentally and physically tough, but to be a true hero he also has to have integrity and the strength of his convictions to do what is right when the pressure is on.
AFTER THE FIRST DEATH . . .
Love this real-life interview where Marcus Luttrell puts a reporter in her place (slams dunks her, really, but with much more dignity than she deserved). I wanted him to say he did do the right thing, that what they did was the right thing to do. The only thing to do. How do I know? Because it was the one choice that was honorable. The SEAL Team's discussion forces you to consider what you would do in that situation. Clearly the reporter needs to re-examine her values. That's like the one thing she should not have said!
At the end of the movie, it brings us back to that opening scene, and the outcome after he flatlines. I couldn't help but think of the fictional "Spartans" of HALO—as with their training, how much Marcus Luttrell endured is incredible (the fact that he's 6' 5" in real life helps as well). Without his SEAL training, he probably would have been down so much earlier. In the movie I heard the medics assess "multiple gunshot wounds"—in real life, he also got shot in the back after he broke three vertebra, and had lots of stone and tree fragments in him as well as the shrapnel! He was so beat to hell after falling, his pants got torn off him. Let that sink in. The movie narration says "I died up on that mountain. There is no question—a part of me will always be up on that mountain." Luttrell believes he was spared by God to tell the story. It puts a face on what they/we are fighting for, and that fight is not against Afghans, it is against evil. It is hard to imagine not believing in God after such a story.
John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
In this 60 Minutes segment Marcus tells the heartbreaking real-life story and reveals the moment he feels he did give up; the moment he says he 'broke'. (Here is part 2.) I say he never broke. His humanity is what came out at that moment, not defeat. It's because in real life he put his weapon down during Mike's death, because that's who he is, because they let goat herders go, that is why we have this story. He may have felt 'broken' (devastated) by loss, but in my mind he's a CHAMPION, not just for all he did that day (including and maybe especially 'breaking' to put his weapon down and cover his ears), but most especially, for his character. It's a heavy burden to shoulder but he was born to be the lone survivor.
BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE
To contrast with that, they show the bad guys doing bad things so you feel dislike for them. Also there's a payoff later for a beheading. So many times in movies, they don't make you dislike the villains, so you feel nothing when things happen later. Just a little went a long way here. Plus, they must make the distinction between the Taliban Afghans and the Afghans who are fighting against them. It puts a face on the 'enemy', and that is one of evil, not of all Afghanis. It might be said that, like Dances With Wolves was the Indians-are-People-too movie, this is the Afghans-are-People-too movie. It makes us see the part of Afghanistan that is not our enemy, and goes a long way to preventing racism and hate. Can you not see the hand of God in the telling of a story where soldiers are faced with killing innocents or letting them go? Had they killed them it would have been no different than Sept. 11th.
"Been around the world twice, talked to
When you get to know them a little, it's so sad what happens later. If you can feel that way after a few minutes in a movie, imagine what they felt for each other after training. And you marvel that such young, strong men strive to live at the 'edge of the fight'. As I sit here now writing this, in comfort, I am eternally grateful.
LONE SURVIVOR TRAILER
Unfortunately, when they reach their destination (the next hilltop to get coms), they still can't get through for the help they need. They have reached a "false summit" because (I think) under stress they relied on sight and didn't know the lay of the land. The pacing in the movie is so well done. From when they get dropped in the field at night to begin their hike (which reminded me of Act of Valor with the equipment, the cautious way they survey the landscape, the night-vision goggles), to the moment before all hell breaks lose, Peter Berg does a really great job of building the tension, and then, like their uncontrolled slide to the bottom of the hill, the warfare is unrelenting and we take the hits along with them as they sink deeper and deeper into danger and death.
ON THE CLOCK
After they engage the
have their backs against a cliff drop a couple times, and they
jump and take
really bad falls. That first one is a doosie. We have a little
comic relief at the end of all the bone-cracking slams:
You may know something like which direction to retreat in is best when you have time to look at it on paper, but in the heat of battle when you're on the run, there's no time to check a map. The enemy knows the terrain, and your position, and what to push you toward. I think it's only because they were SEALs that they survive those two bad falls. It's so hard to watch as any inch of their bodies that sticks out beyond cover gets hit by a bullet. One of them appears to be fatally injured in the second go-round, but probably three of them were, and we become acutely aware they are living on borrowed time.
Meanwhile back at the base . . . I was a little confused as to why Commander Christianson (Eric Bana) doesn't inform his superior officer that "Spartan Zero One" (as the unit of 4 men was called) had tried to reach him via Sat phone. Spartan Zero One had missed two (and then three) windows to report in, but they also tried to call for help (what else would they have used the SAT phone?!) It really builds the tension and frustration in the movie that at various stages they didn't have enough Apaches, they didn't have enough gas, they wouldn't let them fly without protection, and mostly, because of bad communications, all was lost.
But was it? If you see this story as a defeat you are wrong. All those things happened the way they happened for a reason. Even the 16 other members of the team who lost their lives in the helicopter died that day for a reason: Our freedom.
When they tumble through the landscape amid an obstacle course of rocks and logs and tree trunks, each of them already wounded here and there by bullets in several places, you get a little comic relief once they regroup. "That sucked." The only consolation in having to run because the enemy knows where they are, is that it's harder to hit a moving target. Their state of decay is astonishing as they get dirty and cut and bruised and shot. The makeup in this movie should be nominated for an Academy Award.
Like in Blackhawk Down, things get worse and worse and worse. To stop the bleeding, they are trained to pack a wound with dirt. (Pictured in the center above, and below, Gunner's Mate Danny Phillip "Danny" Dietz, Jr. , played by Emile Hirsch, later goes into shock after a gunshot to the abdomen.) Mark Wahlberg as Marcus tells him: "Let's suck it the fuck up—You're a fucking frogman!"
The military-speak/Bad Ass one liners here that Acton Movie Freaks eat up is part and parcel of the camaraderie in a Super Soldier Action Movie.
There so many Bad Ass moments, you will come away in awe of these men. I particularly enjoyed that Marcus Luttrell is from Texas and they put that in the movie. When Lutrell is rescued, the village boy points to a Texas Flag patch and asks Mark as Marcus about being American, he replies "Texas." Then the boy points at the American flag and Marcus says "America is Texas."
The last thing Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy sees in the movie is a mountain valley. Afghanistan is a beautiful yet desolate country. New Mexico was a stand in for the Hindu Kush mountain range between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Marcus Luttrell survived. That is his crime in his eyes, yet he believes God meant for him to live. The will to live is what defines us all and to hate being alive means to hate God's will, so I hope he's found peace with the burden/gift of living to tell the story.
Of course the movie is very emotional. They do a good job of giving us little things to get to know the four men. The last thing Danny Dietz sees in the dramatization is a paint color/decorating theme selection from his wife that is a crumpled up by the enemy soldiers and thrown on the ground. A symbol of his state of mind that he was surely thinking of his wife when he died.
The last thing Ben Foster as Matt "Axe" Axelson saw was . . . darkness? (He lost his sight because of the bullet to the head). If they were trying to show he was sightless, I didn't get that. I thought he could still see as he aimed the last shots he had with his revolver. It was really moving to see someone so alive, so determined and skilled, sit down with his back to a tree and accept his death. (However much his death was different in real life, I thought this version really honored his spirit and his efforts.)
One other way the movie is different is that the four men had no idea that one of the two Chinooks had been shot down. It heightens the sense of hopelessness when Mark as Marcus sees Chinooks and Apaches come and go at different times, and then that they have lost one.
"Are we dead?"
[Lutrell later named his son "Axe" after Sonar Technician Second Class Matthew Gene "Axe" Axelson.]
From the time of his rescue, the movie takes a turn from the real life story into Action Movie awesomeness. I applaud Peter Berg for theRambo-III-ness of it. The villagers send one man on foot to notify the Americans. We wonder, will the Cavalry arrive in time? In true Action Movie form, they show up in force and DECIMATE the enemy. YES! That is what we want to see. Vindication. Justice. Ass kicking.
This movie is so good. It's clear that Peter Berg really got what mattered most and that Marcus Luttrell trusted him with the story. In a way he gave them a victory at the end when the planes shoot at the fleeing enemy. If they hadn't done that, it would have been so depressing. We needed a victory to help us see they didn't die for nothing. Regardless of what happened after, they died for you and me. They got trained, they suited up, and they went in to punch the clock. So as you are punching yours in safety, you should remember how you are able to do that.
Marcus Luttrell's real-life rescuer, his angel, Mohammad Gulab, (pictured at right) is a man of honor, just like Luttrell. The two men have a friendship that should inspire us all to see our commonalities are greater than our differences. The 'enemy' has a face and if you blindly hate any group of people, it's wrong. You must treat them as individuals. You can't kill goat herders because they are part of a Taliban group, and you can't hate all Afghanis just because some of them are waging war against us. You must always do what is right as Team Ten and Gulab did here.
NEVER OUT OF THE FIGHT
And God knows, he did not.
As America did in real life, once again, an Action Movie finds itself in the middle of the Afghan Civil War. The War in Afghanistan (2001-present), according to Wikipedia, refers to: "the intervention by NATO and allied forces in the ongoing Afghan War following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001" with the purpose of dismantling "the al-Qaeda terrorist organization and [removing] from power the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (aka Taliban government, which at the time controlled 90% of Afghanistan), and, [the] hosted al-Qaeda leadership." Some insight into the situation can be found in the real-life background of the first Afghan Civil War based action movie Rambo III.
To bridge the gap, read this: Again, from Wikipedia: "Mujahideen forces caused serious casualties to the Soviet forces, and made the war very costly for the Soviet Union. In 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan." So, at the time, in Rambo III, Stallone was fighting with the Mujahideen rebels against the pro-Soviet Afghan government.
"However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over power in Kabul. After several years of devastating fighting, a village mullah named Mohammed Omar organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban ("students" in Pashto), referring to the Saudi-backed religious schools known for producing extremism. Veteran mujahideen were confronted by this radical splinter group in 1996."
The Taliban entered Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The Taliban . . . is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan. It spread from Pakistan into Afghanistan and formed a government, ruling as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from September 1996 until December 2001, with Kandahar as the capital. However, it gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Mohammed Omar has been serving as the spiritual leader of the Taliban since 1994.
While in power, it enforced its strict interpretation of Sharia law, and leading Muslims have been highly critical of the Taliban's interpretations of Islamic law. The Taliban were condemned internationally for their brutal treatment of women. The majority of the Taliban are made up of Pashtun tribesmen. The Taliban's leaders were influenced by Deobandi fundamentalism, and many also strictly follow the social and cultural norm called Pashtunwali.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Massoud's United Front troops and United Front troops of Abdul Rashid Dostum (who returned from exile) ousted the Taliban from power in Kabul with American air support in Operation Enduring Freedom. From October to December 2001, the United Front gained control of much of the country and played a crucial role in establishing the post-Taliban interim government under Hamid Karzai.
From 1995 to 2001, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and military are widely alleged by the international community to have provided support to the Taliban. Their connections are possibly through Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a terrorist group founded by Sami ul Haq. Pakistan is accused by many international officials of continuing to support the Taliban; Pakistan states that it dropped all support for the group after 9/11. Al Qaeda also supported the Taliban with regiments of imported fighters from Arab countries and Central Asia. Saudi Arabia provided financial support. The Taliban and their allies committed massacres against Afghan civilians, denied UN food supplies to 160,000 starving civilians, and conducted a policy of scorched earth, burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying tens of thousands of homes during their rule from 1996 to 2001.
Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee to United Front-controlled territory, Pakistan, and Iran. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Taliban were overthrown by the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. Later it regrouped as an insurgency movement to fight the American-backed Karzai administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Taliban have been accused of using terrorism as a specific tactic to further their ideological and political goals. According to the United Nations, the Taliban and their allies were responsible for 75% of Afghan civilian casualties in 2010, 80% in 2011, and 80% in 2012.
In the closing credits to Rambo III the film is dedicated to "the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan." After the attacks of 9/11 this was changed to "the gallant people of Afghanistan."
87Eleven Action Design
| Chad Stahelski + David Leitch
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