Why "Lone Survivor" is a Captivating Film

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Based on the failed June 28, 2005 mission "Operation Red Wings". Four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
January 14th, 2014

Everyone loves a good war story, but it is a rare film that combines great storytelling, non-stop action and an honest depiction of wartime events at the same time. "Lone Survivor" is based on the true story of four Navy SEALS who are sent into enemy territory to kill Ahmed Shah, a deadly Taliban leader. When Operation Red Wings takes a turn for the worse, the Taliban is hot on their tracks. Featuring the cinematic re-telling of the tragic 2005 events in Afghanistan, this film is sure to captivate viewers of every background.

The title alone keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, as "Lone Survivor" promises to lead all but one of the Navy SEAL heroes to their inevitable deaths. The brutality resulting from the failed mission is beautifully captured in the film. Even more captivating is the brotherhood and camaraderie that only grows stronger as the story progresses.

The real-life events that inspired the movie do not hint at a happy ending for "Lone Survivor." However, this film promises to be a wild ride with well-paced action sequences and heart-stopping crises. In the midst of this gripping drama are subtle acts of heroism. When the Special Operations team comes across a small group of villagers, they make a merciful decision which puts them in grave danger.

In order to create a true-to-life cinematic retelling of Operation Red Wings, director Peter Berg went to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of every detail. Berg consulted after-action military reports, autopsy reports of Navy SEALS killed in battle and personal interviews of present-day Navy SEALS. Berg also conversed with the families of the deceased SEALS in order to gain a better understanding of the men behind the film's characters. The film's central character, Marcus Luttrell, was an active consultant during filming of the movie. This attention to detail results in an honest, realistic depiction of Operation Red Wings that is sure to immerse viewers in the brutal world of these Navy SEALS.

"Lone Survivor" stars Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell. The other members of the Navy SEALS team are played by Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster. The actors' heartfelt performances connect viewers to the characters in a deeply felt way. For an even more realistic portrayal, the actors received tips and ammunition training from retired and active Navy SEALS.

Viewers are drawn further into the story through video clips of real Navy SEAL missions and fallen soldiers. Honest dialog, realistic makeup and remote location footage bring audiences into the hostile world of warfare that is not sugar-coated with Hollywood cliché.

"Lone Survivor" may appear to be a stereotypical pro-American film at first glance, but viewers soon discover that the Afghan villagers enjoy their moments of heroism and valor. This becomes especially evident near the end of the story. This is historically a rare occurrence in war films, making "Lone Survivor" a rare cinematic gem.

The film does not make any bold political statements about the war in Afghanistan because its main concerns are the courage and experiences of the SEALS themselves. Although some viewers may see this as a drawback, the weak political affiliation likely gives this film a wider appeal across broader audiences. Although not all Americans agree with the war in Afghanistan, most will applaud the heroic efforts of the Navy SEALS portrayed in this movie and those serving throughout the world.

A strong musical score weaves intense emotion into every scene. Composer Steve Jablonsky collaborated with the band Explosions in the Sky to produce haunting tracks for the film. The score is neither overpowering nor aggressive, allowing the actors' performances to shine. The ending score is a more traditional piece that brings the film's sad events to a proper conclusion.

Although this film is exciting, it is not for the faint of heart. Movie-goers should not enter the cinema longing for a tale of conquest. The slow, painful deaths of several characters, along with realistic, graphic war violence, are likely to be difficult to watch. On the other hand, a constant feeling of suspense is sure to keep eyes glued to the screen.

Although a two-hour movie can never capture the entirety of the events surrounding Operation Red Wings, Peter Berg and his production team work hard to do it justice in this beautiful re-telling of a great story. The resulting film may even rival wartime favorites such as "Saving Private Ryan." From the fast-paced action scenes to the gritty details, "Lone Survivor" promises to be a cinematic experience that movie goers don't want to miss.