Lone Survivor – Review

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In June 2005, a team of four US Navy Seals headed deep into the Afghan mountains to try to take out Ahmad Shahd, a Taliban leader responsible for several lethal attacks on US forces.

Operation Red Wings was led by Lieutenant Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), with snipers Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg),  Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) and communications specialist Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch).

A chance encounter throws the mission into disarray and leads to the team being ambushed by Taliban fighters. On the back foot, the four find themselves trapped on a remote peak, where they manage to call in back-up.

But the rescue operation doesn’t go to plan and suddenly, there are more than just four American lives on the line.


Fade in: Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Luttrell, covered in blood, being rescued by American forces.

Fade out: CAPTION: Lone Survivor.

The end? It might as well be. Where is the dramatic tension when that title follows a shot of a particular character being rescued?

Having said that, Hancock’s Peter Berg does a good job of keeping up the tension and excitement in a film whose ending is predetermined. Perhaps it’s fair to acknowledge that unconventionally, rather than the audience being asked to wonder “will they survive?” the question being posed is actually “how will HE survive?”

When the answer arrives, it’s sadly not as honourable as you might expect from a film about four American heroes. There’s also an odd taste left in the mouth when you stop to consider that we are supposed to be rooting for four highly armed Americans who are trying to kill an Afghan man in his own village; OK, so he’s been regularly killing their colleagues – but they’re also Americans, in Afghanistan to try to kill locals. If four foreigners turned up on the hill behind your house and started pointing guns at you, you’d probably want to shoot them first too.

The way the plot unfolds is well timed and you do identify with the characters as things start to go wrong, but it is problematic that when soldiers start getting shot, you know what their fate will be.

It’s an efficient and effective military thriller, strengthened by believable camaraderie, but weakened by the decision to retain the title of the source book.