Navy SEALs. Tears of the Sun. The Finest Hour. G. I. Jane. Act of Valor. All movies focused on Navy SEALs and fictional operations. Now we have a movie about an actual SEAL operation and it is very realistic, dramatic and compelling. Lone Survivor tells the story of Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and the other members of SEAL Team 10 who were involved in “Operation Red Wings”.
This operation involved deploying a four-man reconnaissance team into a mountainous area to search for Ahmad Shah (Azami). Aside from Luttrell, the team members were Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster). Their commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen (Eric Bana) would lead a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) in to carry out the mission of killing Shah once the recon team had pinpointed his location.
The team quickly reached the pre-planned recon point and located the target, but problems with their communications equipment prevented them from calling in the QRF. This was the first of a series of problems that beset this mission. The attack helicopters detailed to the mission were pulled away to support other forces who were in contact with the enemy. Then, while the team was in a hide position, shepherds walked right up on them. While the four easily overpowered the three shepherds, they faced a difficult choice. Release them and they would soon be overrun by the Taliban forces in the area. Tie them up and leave them in the area while they carried out the mission would probably lead to the death of the shepherds. Or they could just kill the shepherds and proceed. However, this would have violated the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and could have resulted in a court-martial. Ultimately LT Murphy ordered the shepherds be released and they attempted to exfiltrate.
The Taliban fighters came after the SEALs quickly and there were a lot of them. While the SEALs killed a number of their pursuers, they were all wounded although able to continue to fight. They tried to escape the area but the pursuit was relentless. You can tell from the film’s title that only one of the four will survive and which one it is. How he survives you can experience for yourself when you see the film, but afterwards you might want to Google the word “Pashtunwali” to better understand some of what takes place.
The opening of most movies about Navy SEALs usually involves scenes of the incredibly grueling training they go through and this is no exception. However, director Peter Berg makes the excellent choice to use actual images from future SEALs going through that training, known as BUD/S. The influence of Marcus Luttrell and the other SEALs who acted as technical advisors can be seen in the stark realism of the film. Berg did not “dumb down” the material as some directors seem to do when they make a movie about the men and women who fight wars. The weeks of training the actors did shows in how well they move like Special Forces operators once they’ve begun their mission. The action is frenetic. Viewers will be on the edge of their seats for nearly the entire 121 minutes. It’s a tour of duty well worth enlisting for.
These are photos of the three men who died in the service of the United States while part of Operation Redwings: