Honor, brotherhood and sacrifice. These are three major themes that Lone Survivor competently represents throughout its two hour runtime, albeit without much in the way of subtlety. Footage of the brave men who serve in the Navy SEALS is shown during the opening credits, immediately reminding you of what these people go through in order to become the sharpest of soldiers. And while you’ll definitely have a better understanding of what these men suffer through, characterization falls a bit flat in the end.
In 2005, an Islamic man named Ahmad Shah had been leading a militia across Afghanistan, subsequently killing a large number of American soldiers. Operation Red Wings focused on capturing and killing Shah, though the operation failed, leaving only one survivor after the other three soldiers were killed in an ambush by Shah and his men. You’re basically given this information upfront, right at the beginning of the film as survivor, Marcus Luttrell (played by Mark Wahlberg), is wheeled into a hangar with serious injuries.
With this operation’s inevitable fate divulged to the viewer within the first five minutes of the film, characterization is key. Unfortunately, this is one area where Lone Survivor falls short. We’re not given a lot of personal information on the lives of these men, besides the fact that one of them is engaged. Furthermore, with the exception of one of the soldiers, none of them have any truly defining characteristics that make them stand out from the others. After seeing some dramatic sequences where the soldiers fall in battle, you definitely realize that these were real people, but as characters in a movie, it’s hard to care when you’re given so little information on them.
Luckily, there are some great action sequences and a fantastic sense of tension and suspense that pervade the majority of the film. Discovering how the operation became such a disaster is intriguing, and you’ll definitely feel the sting of each soldier’s wounds as they roll down rocky hills all while being shot at from higher ground. There’s nothing fancy about the combat that these men go through; there are no moments where characters are shooting everyone as the camera spins around them to emphasize how cool they are. Much like Saving Private Ryan, these firefights are gritty and panic-inducing. Being able to capture this sense of being overwhelmed can be difficult if the camera can’t keep up with the action, but Lone Survivor does a fantastic job of letting its viewers know that the odds are not in this team’s favor.
Knowing how it all ends, it’s inspiring to see each actor pull off a very tough and determined look through it all. The acting is great, especially that of Wahlberg, which is to be expected given his excellent track record. Taylor Kitsch, who plays Lieutenant Michael Murphy, also puts on quite a show, proving to be one of the most relatable characters in the film. The lack of music throughout certain parts of the movie helps make these soldiers seem very real in what they say and do, and even people not directly involved in the firefights do an excellent job at portraying their respective roles.
Upon leaving the theater, members of the audience weren’t nudging their friends about how cool a certain sequence was or trying to reiterate their favorite line of the film. As the credits rolled, a simple, introspective song echoed throughout the room, and everyone in the theater left in silence. Lone Survivor accomplishes its main objective in making you think about the hell that these men are put through. It falls short in some key areas, and there are definitely better films with the same message, but Lone Survivor succeeds in providing excellent action and an interesting story that honors those who serve to protect this country at the cost of their own lives.