This is a high-impact,
emotionally-charged film that will have you waving the American flag in one
hand and wielding a hanky in the other.
It’s based on the true story of a
failed 2005 mission of Navy Seals in
. They were given a mandate to “take
out” a Taliban leader who was suddenly located in a remote mountain village.
(These days, we would just send a drone, but that’s another story.)
We begin with chronicling all the
incredibly difficult training that the Seals had to go through in order to
even be called “Seals”: they were
the toughest and the best-trained, and they would need every bit of both for
The higher-ups explain the plan that
would utilize helicopters both to land the recon patrol, and then, when they
reported in a sighting confirmation, send in the rest of the unit.
But the battle plan relied on perfect and instantaneous communication,
which wasn’t always the case in the field. And
it certainly did not take into account the possibility of being surprised by
the superior manpower and firepower of the enemy.
The story is told from the point of view
of “the lone survivor” of this fiasco, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg).
He considers his little recon platoon to be truly a band of brothers,
which means that not only did they really have a bond with each other, they
also had a tendency to debate how to proceed, rather than relying on the
strict military hierarchy, and that dynamic, too, was also a factor in the
series of mishaps leading up to the disaster.
Marcus and his buddies spot the Taliban
leader they’re looking for, all right, but they can’t communicate with
their base unit because they can’t get a signal in the mountains.
So they decide to wait and hide and see if they can recover the
frequency later, but while trying to be inconspicuous, they are discovered by
some goat shepherds who are suspiciously supplied with a walkie-talkie.
Yes, they are connected to the Taliban unit which these Americans were
sent to combat.
And yet, the goat herders consist of one
young man, one old man, and a boy. So what does our unit with a mission do,
exactly? Let them go?
Tie them up? Eliminate them as
possible informants? Yes, there’s a
language barrier, but there’s also a lot of debate among the soldiers.
Everybody wants guidance from headquarters, but it’s not forthcoming.
They’re going to have to figure this out on their own.
So they finally decide to let the goat herders go, and try to climb to
higher ground to find a better signal.
Well, that plan gets instantly trumped.
The goat herders bring back the Taliban mountain fighters, and the
stranded Americans still can’t get a signal.
So now the firefight begins, and though our guys are brave and tough,
they’re outnumbered and outgunned.
We already know there’s only one
“lone survivor,” but it’s still difficult to watch how we get there.
The story takes a bit of a left turn here, as Marcus, having stumbled
on a creek and fallen in it, is found by a local villager who decides that
this invokes his ancient hospitality code. (Think
of Abraham and
, duty-bound to bring home strangers, attend to their needs, and protect
Of course, the Taliban fighters are not
impressed with the Good Samaritans, instead threatening their extinction for
“aiding and abetting the enemy.” The
battered and wounded Marcus doesn’t quite understand why they’re extending
this kindness to him, but right about now he sure could use the hospitality,
as he awaits his rescue by his comrades who may or may not make it out there
to deliver him.
This film “tells it like it is”
while trying not to have a political agenda, but, of course, we can’t help
but consider the reasons for our military presence in
in the first place. And, we can’t
help but root for our fine soldiers demonstrating incredible bravery under
fire. We’ll try to admire that
without asking ourselves, “For what purpose?”
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,