The silence of the Afghan mountainside is shattered by the rapid firing of AK-47s, submachine guns and M4A1 Carbines, as gigantic Apaches, Black Hawks and Chinooks soar in the smoke-filled sky. An artillery shell rips through a helicopter filled with American soldiers. As the movie title suggests, only one man survives.

Lone Survivor sheds an unforgiving light on the unflinching bravery of elite American forces who placed their lives on the line in the war against the Taliban since 2001.

The war movie is based on the autobiographical book of the same name penned by survivor Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell. It chronicles the journey of 4 US Navy SEALs on their aborted mission, Operation Red Wings (2005), in the Dara-I-Pech district of the Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan on the rocky and treacherous slopes of Sawtalo Sar Mountain.

After his highly lauded Hancock (2008)and Battleship (2012), Peter Berg returns as director and writer for the film that’s been commended for its accuracy to the original story, although people have since pointed out deviations and exaggerations from the book.

The film starts off with real footage of American soldiers training tirelessly on the grounds of Afghanistan, and then cuts to a shot where the bloodied and immensely wounded Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) is medically evacuated to an air base.

As we flashback to the events of the 3 days leading up to this scene, that’s where the story gets interesting.

Navy Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) leads the mission to capture or kill notorious Al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), in Kunar. His 3 members are communication specialist and spotter Danny Philip Dietz (Emile Hirsch), sonar technician and sniper Mathew Gene Axelson (Ben Foster), and Luttrell, a sniper.

As they attempted to hide in the midst of the broken branches, fallen leaves and towering trees, the team was spotted by a group of local goatherds.

Murphy released them after being convinced they were innocent civilians, and should be left alone in accordance to the military rules of engagement.

However, the decision backfired when more than 20 of Shah’s men ambushed the team. This sparked off an ammunition exchange that had audiences gripping their seats tightly and jerking randomly at the sight of blood and gore. The severely outnumbered SEALs may have brought down a number of Taliban soldiers with merciless and skillful shots at the head, but they got as good as they bravely retaliated with exploding bombs and shrapnel piercing into their skins. Dietz lost his fingers in an unforgettably bloodied scene.

The guys were also shot multiple times and Luttrell suggested packing their wounds tight with dirt to stop the bleeding. With splendid art direction, cinematography and special effects, the battle scene made for an enjoyable heart-gripping action thriller.

Murphy was the embodiment of a fearless and decisive combatant. In his second feature film collaboration with Berg after Battleship, Taylor Kitsch effortlessly portrayed Murphy in the film, with his heavy physique and serious-minded personality. To ensure that he was well prepared for the role, according to the productions team, Kitsch took up high-intensity workouts with body armor, and further pumped himself with long runs while carrying a 40-pound weighted vest. Judging from his well-chiseled body on screen, his workouts definitely paid off!

Emile Hirsch, best known for his roles in The Girl Next Door (2004)and Into The Wild (2007), had similarly prepped for his role in the film by engaging himself in a 90-minute weight program for close to 4 months and did justice to the role of Dietz.

Ben Foster, who began to shine after his performance in Hostage (2005), plays Axelson. In order to feel like the real soldier and deliver the character in the film, Foster met Axelson’s family and friends to learn more about the fallen serviceman. 2–time Oscar nominated Mark Wahlberg, who was brilliant as John Bennet in Ted (2012), and Irish boxer Micky Ward in The Fighter in 2011, brought life to Luttrell’s words.

Apart from the gun fires, explosions and bloodshed, there were lighter moments including jabs of humor among the guys, especially when Murphy and Luttrell discussed the price of an Arabian horse that Murphy’s wife requested for as a wedding gift. Dietz was no less funny when he was unable to decide which color to paint his house.

After the ghastly shootout which took the lives of three soldiers, a selfless Afghan villager and tribal chief, Mohammad Gulab, rescued the lone survivor Luttrell and brought him to his village to recuperate. Gulab is portrayed by Arab-Israeli actor Ali Suliman, who has starred in award winning films like Paradise Nowand The Syrian Bride.

Before long, Taliban soldiers raided the village and almost killed Luttrell, if not for his newfound Pashtun friends, who later sent a messenger to call for the US troops to rescue the injured American soldier. This episode introduced the audience to Pashtunwali, a “code of life” detailing requirements of hospitality, asylum, justice, bravery and righteousness, which many Pashtun tribes still abide by today.

Gulab’s young son, played by the adorable Rohan Chand from Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill (2011), is seen alongside Luttrell most of the time. The 2 share a few conversations, often hampered by language inefficiencies, in a comical way. Well, who brings a duck when asked for a knife?

Yet, the duo pictured the value of humanity. Clad in Perahan Tunban [Afghan clothing for men which literally means ‘Dress and Trouser’], Luttrell’s persona of an American soldier died away when Gulab’s son selflessly took care of his American guest. It was a far cry from Luttrell’s aggressive self when he pitted himself against Gulab’s own countrymen.

Notwithstanding the difficulties in commmunication, Gulab and his son played a pivotal role in the film, and definitely in Luttrell’s real life.

A true story of revenge, survival, brotherhood and heroism, Lone Survivor is one of those films that make you salute those who sacrifice their comfort and lives to make sure others don’t have to. And you don’t even have to be an American to feel that way.
Rating: 4/5

Runtime: 121 min

Language: English

Censorship: M18

Genre: War,Action, Biography

Director: Peter Berg

Main Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster


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