Operation Red Wings was an unmitigated disaster, if Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell’s (Mark Wahlberg) book, Lone Survivor, is to be believed. Sent in with three of his fellow Seals (Taylor Hitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster) to scout out a Taliban leader, the foursome makes the fateful decision to set a trio of goat herders free, and brings the full weight of the Taliban group down on them. What could have been a “simple” procedure becomes a race for survival, and a story of brothers.
[A disclaimer: I’m not a fan of war movies. I went to see Zero Dark Thirty at the request of a friend, and given the opportunity to see The Hobbit 2.0 a second time or see Lone Survivor, I went with the Mark Wahlberg feature. But unlike most war movies, which ultimately serve up a healthy serving of “hooyah,” this one had several “seriously?” moments where the military’s lack of preparation or communication obviously endangered its own troops. And even a non-war guy can get pretty irritated with that.]
I didn’t think this was war porn. I know some reviews have critiqued it for being overly violent (others have compared it to Black Hawk Down) but I thought, unfortunately, it was appropriately realistic. Berg does have Battleship on his resume (ouch!) but Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom were suitably accurate of their genre, and here, we feel for these guys and their ordeal. But ultimately, what I took away from it wasn’t the normal stuff.
Sure, you could go with the “everyone dies, but not everyone realy lives.” It would fit.
But I think the stronger take is the fact that our ‘lone survivor’ (for the five of you who don’t watch the news, I’ll keep it… a secret) doesn’t survive on his own. It’s more than “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” because in Afghani culture, the code of Pashtunwali or hospitality dictates that a stranger must be taken in, cared for, and even defended. Can you imagine the story of the town that directed its occupants to defend a Taliban bomber because of its hospitality values? Think back to the backlash toward where Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsaernav would be buried after bombing the Boston Marathon!
Matthew 25:31-46 has plenty to say about what Jesus taught in terms of the way we would treat people; Hebrews 13:2 puts it this way: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Sure, Lone Survivor injects humanity in the midst of what has devolved into a blood bath, but it also brings back around the initial decision by the Seals- that God smiles on us when we make good choices, that there is a right way to behave even in the midst of war.
I didn’t find easy answers in Lone Survivor but I wasn’t expecting any. I didn’t however expect a movie that downplayed the glory of the military, and raised ethical questions about how we behave when push comes to shove, and how we are really part of the global community.
Seals aren’t the only ones who die with honor and choose how to live. We all have to figure that out, and the sooner we do, the greater impact we can have on our community.
If you look closely (he has a line or two), you’ll see the real Luttrell. I hadn’t seen any pictures of him prior to seeing the film, but my brain picked him out as a ‘real soldier.’ It was a tribute to his fallen comrades that he was able to ‘act’ in the film, as well as train the actors.