Having read the book, I knew it was just a matter of time before I saw “Lone Survivor.” On Sunday, Lori and I slushed our way through the snow for a matinee showing. It was, as I expected, a movie long on action and short on nuance.
If you’re not familiar with the film, starring Mark Wahlberg, it’s based on the book of the same name, co-authored by a Navy SEAL named Marcus Luttrell who in fact was the sole survivor of a four-man covert mission in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains. His three companions died during a prolonged gunfight with Taliban soldiers. Luttrell alone survived, thanks to Afghan villagers who found him gravely wounded and took him back to their village, bound by their centuries-old honor code to protect him from all enemies — Taliban included.
Just four weeks ago, the film was the nation’s No. 1 box office attraction, according to Box Office Mojo. It has since fallen to No. 5 and, I suspect, will slide further. Not that it’s a bad film. It’ll get your heart pumping watching these simulated battle scenes. It’s just that, having read the book, I feel justified in saying these couple of things:
1. For the sake of added drama, the film strays from the truth toward the end of the book. (No spoiler alerts here for those of you who plan to see the movie.)
2. Unlike other movies I’ve seen — “12 Years A Slave” especially comes to mind — there is virtually no character development. When the four SEALs are out on their own battling for their lives, you’d be hard pressed to describe any differences among the men. I knew their back stories from the book, but if you haven’t read it, you’re likely to see them as slight variations of the same person: a Type A-plus, adrenalin-fueled, super-patriot.
I don’t mean any disrespect saying that. But it’s not a great leap to say these men are pretty much cut from the same cloth — supremely fit, fearless, resourceful, courageous beyond belief.
A couple more thoughts:
— As a parent of an Army infantryman who returned intact, in mind and body, from a one-year deployment in Afghanistan, you can’t help but imagine what he and his fellow soldiers might have gone through over there.
— Nothing tugs at the heartstrings like seeing photos of these real-life service members on screen before the credits roll. Knowing the 2005 mission took the lives of three SEALs — plus 16 more SEALs and soldiers who were gunned down in a rescue helicopter — you find yourself asking again, “Why?” With more than 2,300 American fatalities and 12,000 wounded during 13 years of war, what have we really accomplished in terms of national and global security?
See a map of state-by-state casualties during Operation Enduring Freedom.