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Wick's Review

Created Jan 11, 2014 09:37PM PST • Edited May 30, 2021 07:57PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    The greatest bromance movie of all time – charming, funny, deeply affecting – Lone Survivor is more importantly the Saving Private Ryan of our still young 21st Century. It viscerally depicts American heroes fighting my war against my enemy, the Good War, the necessary war per both Presidents Bush and Obama. It is quite simply a must-see movie.

    Indeed, every American of voting age should see it. Every citizen of the world who’s of voting age should see it. The brutal parts are more tolerable than you may think, in no small part because of how respectfully the great Peter Berg depicts them. Worst case, they comprise maybe half of the second-half of the movie and come amid heroic actions brimming with such esprit-de-corps that they are ennobling in the extreme.

    Make no mistake however. The title is literal. Marcus Luttrell was the lone survivor of a four man SEAL team on a mission in Taliban country. We meet and fall in love with him and his doomed brothers-in-arms, plus another 16 American heroes killed coming to rescue them. All of this tragedy is history, recent history. Deep sadness came over me when I heard the news a mere nine years ago. Deep gratitude suffuses me now.

    What we have here is a movie that shows the tip of the spear of the liberal West in hand-to-hand combat with the Islamist forces of darkness. Seeing this caused profound pride to well up in me as an American. Our guys are the good guys even when it behooved them to be bad. Good guys do their damnedest to avoid civilian casualties. Bad guys seek civilian casualties. Islamists are bad guys. Taliban, Al Qaeda, etc.

    Lone Survivor is the second Mount Rushmore movie in three months, the other being 12 Years a Slave. Essential US history movies both, they are also films full of beauty as much as brutality. We are not worthy and yet we must bear witness. As Americans who hold our country dear, it’s the least we can do, the least.

  3. Great 4.0
    SEAL Stars

    Taylor Kitsch gets named first because he plays the LT. of the team, a legend of Naval Special Warfare even before he went over the top in a successful bid to save his team, an action for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. There is no higher honor than what Lt. Michael Murphy embodied.

    He didn’t take himself seriously. After beating a younger SEAL in a race around Bagram Air Base – all of it – he’s asked how it could have happened. “You’re Mike Murphy. The surprise is you didn’t win by more.”

    Kitsch muscled up to NCAA levels from his Tim Riggins days on Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights to play the heman who Marcus Luttrell called Mikey, a point brought home when TK does a shirtless shuffle around the barracks. He’s always been tremendously appealing in roles where he doesn’t have to say too much and where he gets to do stuff. Playing a true American superhero, he’s perfectly cast.

    Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Luttrell is a collaborative creation of Marcus and Mark, who worked on it together. Luttrell is – of course – The Lone Survivor. Wahlberg is the studliest everyman in the movies today, a really likable guy with serious guns. Mr. Marky Mark also produced Lone Survivor and has acquitted himself exceptionally well carrying the weight of bringing this precious project to fruition. He has famously decried any suggestion that a mere Hollywood player be compared to real American heroes. Nonetheless, Mark Wahlberg is a Hollywood hero of the first order. Hoorah!

    Emile Hirsch plays Danny Dietz and Ben Foster plays Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson, the other two SEALs in the Recon Team. Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Jr. comes alive in Hirsch’s terrific performance as a lovable, albeit high-strung operator. Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson was equally adept on land as sea and a loving husband most of all when he knew his time was up. Foster delivers a tart performance that reveals Axe’s edge, ability and endurance.

    Representing the rest of the US Navy
    • Eric Bana as Erik Kristensen, the doomed Ground Commander of Operation Red Wings.
    • Alexander Ludwig as an eager young SEAL who delivers a memorable performance in the most enjoyable hazing scene you’ll ever see.
    • Jerry Ferrara – Turtle on Wahlberg’s Entourage – as a Bagram phone jockey
    Representing Afghanistan, first the bad and then the good
    • Yousuf Azami as a Taliban kingpin who’s taken to beheading villagers
    • Ali Suliman as Gulab Khan, the heroic Pashtun villager who took a grievously wounded Luttrell into his home and then violently protected him at risk to his family and everything else he held dear. Gulab is living proof that there are countless good Muslims.
  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0

    None, but set so as to not drag down the overall Acting score.

  6. Female Costars Great 4.0

    None, but set so as to not drag down the overall Acting score.

  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    The opening scenes, indeed the first half of the movie, show the essence of SEALdom in deeply flattering terms, in part because they open a window into the deeply difficult course these guys pass to become SEALs in the first place. It becomes clear that the SEALs ultimately use water as a training vehicle, as a physical metaphor for adversity. Thus their missions needn’t involve water. Frogmen operate equally well jumping from the sky, humping over rugged mountains and fire fighting from behind trees.

    Peter Berg deserves a medal of his own for adapting Marcus Luttrell’s book and then directing it so exceptionally well. A metal statue would be entirely appropriate. Gold perhaps.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Steven Spielberg won the Best Director Oscar for Saving Private Ryan. Peter Berg could join him.

  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    SEALs – who can do everything from diving to demolition to orienteering – don’t know from bridesmaids. Cute. Very cute.

  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.4

    Lots of American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice. Want to know why we salute the flag, why we honor veterans. Consider this Exhibit A.

    Nonetheless, the second half of the movie is often gut-wrenching.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Savage 3.7
  17. Rudeness Profane 2.6
  18. Glib 1.2
    Tactical Lessons
    • The SEAL Team Lt. laid out three stark choices. Going to three, which is to say beyond binary, made it seem like a comprehensive range of options. Yet the movie implies a significant modification on one of the choices could have averted disaster. The four Afghanis they released included two young boys, an old man and a military-age angry guy. The soldier is shown bopping down the mountain upon release to alert the Taliban. Had they hobbled him in some non-lethal way, perhaps by shackling his ankles, he wouldn’t have been able to cover ground so fast.
    • Safe cover requires ducking into recessed positions, while gaining comms requires moving up to exposed positions. Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Mike Murphy gave his life doing the latter, thereby finally getting through to HQ and bringing in the cavalry. One hopes our operators now have mini drones that can fly an antenna from recessed cover positions up to exposed comms positions. You shouldn’t have to move a man to raise an antenna.
    • Counterinsurgency is deeply personal, the Community Policing of warfare.
    Strategic Observations
    • President Obama was never in this war to win it, something that was fairly apparent all along, but has now become indubitable with the publication of Bob Gates’ autobiography Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. As the President himself has often said, he was elected to end wars, a statement that implies winning is secondary. Pity, since winning leadership is all, as this movie makes clear.
    • Seeing Islamists like the Taliban makes clear how narrow are the political differences we have in the United States. Our religious Conservatives are Liberals in comparison to Islamists, our political battles mostly stay between the 40 yard lines. ObamaCare took it to the 30. Islamists are at the 1.
    Ethical Observation

    American forces – from the liberal West – are good guys. Islamists – who reject the values of classical liberalism in their benighted quest for a medieval theocracy – are bad guys. Very simple, really.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.3
  20. Biological Glib 1.3
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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Jan 19, 2014 12:13PM

Regarding BrianSez’s Review
“Heroism doesn’t always equate to victory.” Well said Bri.