Based on Marcus Luttrell‘s (Mark Wahlberg) personal accounts, Lone Survivor chronicles a mission in the Hindu Kush mountain region of Afghanistan to find and kill high ranking Taliban member. Of the four-man initial team, and the first group sent in to retrieve them, Luttrell would be the sole survivor.
After a brief introduction to life on the base and the various Navy SEALS (most of whom will play only ancillary roles to the main tale) the film moves forward with the introduction and deployment of Luttrell, Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Axelson (Ben Foster). Arriving at their destination without incident, the mission takes a turn for the worse when they are discovered by three locals.
Cut off from HQ, and with no standing orders for such a situation (something which seems a tad odd), the foursome argue over how to proceed knowing any chance of their mission succeeding means the death of the old man and two boys which the team is unwilling to do.
Although slow to get going, and wearing more than a little heart on its sleeve with its a decidedly pro-military slant that’s likely to play better with certain audiences, writer/director Peter Berg‘s adaptation of the story picks up significantly once conflict is introduced. The action sequences showcasing the characters forced multiple times to jump off cliffs (in which we see every hard hit of their various landings) are the movie’s true stars.
Despite a reported $50,000,000 budget, Lone Survivor looks and feels like a far more modest undertaking. Following Luttrell’s full journey from leaving the base with three of his closest friends to returning days later alone the film is a rather basic hero’s journey of one member of the team surviving near impossible odds. Aside from some hamfisted poetic narration and photo gallery to end the piece, the movie doesn’t touch on Luttrell’s experiences following these events or his return to village in Afghanistan where his life was spared (which might have been a far more interesting story).
Making its mark with its action sequences and performances, including Eric Bana in the role of the Lt. Commander in charge of the operation, the threadbare nature of the plot eventually begins to wear. Aside from the one scene in the forest there’s no internal conflict to be found in the film (even in the late scenes in the Afghan village, which feels tacked on to the end of the movie almost as an afterthought). The heroes are heroic. The villains are evil. And the journey is decided before the movie even begins. Lone Survivor will offer audiences exactly what they expect in the retelling of Luttrell’s survival, in what feels mostly like a TV-movie with unexpectedly good action sequences, but nothing more.