Truth and Power 

The Brutalities and Falsehoods of Lone Survivor

LONE SURVIVOR Spoiler: see film's title.

LONE SURVIVOR Spoiler: see film's title.

IT HASN'T BEEN that long. Moreover, Operation Redwings—the 2005 operation against an insurgent leader in Afghanistan that killed 19 Navy SEALs and Special Ops forces and inspired Peter Berg's Lone Survivor—is part of a conflict that hasn't fully resolved. Society hasn't processed this war, so to take liberties with it now feels, at best, premature.

Lone Survivor is based on the true story, as told by... lone survivor Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg). One of four SEALs up against a larger number of attackers (estimates vary, landing somewhere between 10 and 200, with Berg tending toward the latter), these men put up a staggering fight, the action of which the film is primarily preoccupied. Though comparisons to The Passion of the Christ are overblown, the bullets, broken bones, and brutal tumbles down steep, rocky ravines are nail bitingly riveting. Knowing how poorly things end possibly intensifies the experience, and this middle bulk of the film succeeds as a sobering and anguished war movie.

That doesn't make the fabrications less irksome. Perhaps the worst of these is a completely fictional final conflict between "Taliban" forces (a careless use of the term) and the village that harbored Luttrell until US forces could locate him. The fact that, in real life, the villagers did so according to an ancient code of honor—and that the insurgents had no realistic option other than to respect it—is a far more interesting dynamic than Berg's hail of gunfire.

Berg, who also directed Friday Night Lights, seems drawn to cultures of male bonding, and as such the men depicted here are ideal. Though their initial introductions are perfunctory, the action on the battlefield—Wahlberg is joined here in the key performances by Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster—bears this out. It's been stressed that adherence to accuracy was of utmost importance to Luttrell, and it appears that his consultations on the violence itself largely ensured that. Book-ending those efforts with misleading fiction tragically undermines that.

Lone Survivor
Rated R · 121 minutes · 2014
Official Site: www.lonesurvivorfilm.com
Director: Peter Berg
Producer: Peter Berg, Sarah Aubrey, Randall Emmett, Norton Herrick, Barry Spikings, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Vitaly Grigoriants, George Furla, Simon Fawcett, Braden Aftergood, Louis G. Friedman, Remington Chase, Stepan Martirosyan, Adi Shankar, Spencer Silna, Mark Damon, Brandt Andersen, Jeff Rice, Lauren Selig and Jason Shuman
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Eric Bana, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Sammy Sheik and Yousuf Azami

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