Even though you go into Lone Survivor knowing that there’s only one lone survivor, you start to hope that you misinterpreted the title halfway through the movie. “Maybe it means metaphorical survivor,” I said to myself, “perhaps, they all make it, but maybe only one survives.” Of course that’s not the case. Four men go on the mission in Afghanistan and only one makes it out. Hence the name, Lone Survivor.
For that reason, it’s an incredibly sad movie from the start. Made only sadder by the fact that it’s based on the true story of a failed mission to take down a Taliban leader. When these people die in the movie, you have to remember that they died in real life. Leaving behind real friends and real family and real lives back home in America. On one hand, that’s the cost of war. On the other hand, it’s always disturbing to take a moment and remember that everyone’s who died over there has real friends, families and lives in our country. These people aren’t just causalities, but human beings who are missed and mourned. While that’s something that should always be on our mind when we hear about troops dying, if often isn’t. “Oh,” we sigh upon hearing about large amounts of people dying, “that’s sad.” Then we go back to our every day lives, carrying on as normal. If nothing else this movie — and I guess any war movie that develops its characters well — reminds us of that troops are people.
But that’s not the message of Lone Survivor. It isn’t meant to make you think about the troops as individual people with individual lives. Rather it’s meant to make you think about the rules of war and more specifically, why they’re not always so black and white. The SEAL team ends up in the deadly firefight against the Taliban because they did the right thing. While hiding out in the mountains, surveying an Afghani town, the marines — Marcus (Mark Wahlberg), Michael (Taylor Kitsch), Danny (Emile Hirsch), Matthew (Ben Foster) — capture two teenagers and an elderly shepard who come across their surveillance site. They’re faced with an almost impossible decision. Do they release them, knowing that they’ll tell the Taliban their location? Or do they kill them, despite the fact they’re innocent? As I said before, they make the right decision — to release them. That’s a SEAL rule — don’t kill innocent people. Naturally the teens run down the mountain and alert the Taliban, who immediately come up into the mountains to hunt down and murder the men.
While the four men are able to hold off the Taliban at first, it quickly becomes clear that they’re completely outnumbered and that they’re pretty much destined to die. One by one, they’re picked off. And as each one died, I thought, “ugh, if only they’d killed those kids, they wouldn’t be in this situation right now.” I had to force myself to remember that you can’t kill innocent people, especially when they stumble across you on their own land. It’s just not fair. In the same way that that the SEAL team has families back home, the teen boys do too. It’s not their fault that they’re living in a place that’s run by the Taliban.
But I’m pretty sure that’s the point of this movie — to make you question the rules. To make you question your own morals of what’s right and what’s wrong and what you would do in that situation. And I didn’t like that. While I’m all for getting new perspective on situations, I felt that this movie manipulated my emotions. Of course I want the Americans to live! But the real situation as well the real story of this failed mission’s more complicated than what we see here. It’s not as simple as four brave Americans versus a bunch of nameless bad guys.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way saying that these men should’ve died. In an ideal world, no one should die! I’m just saying that this movie comes off as war propaganda designed to make people feel guilty about questioning war time decisions that result in the death of innocent non-US civilians. Maybe all the talk about drones in the past year is making me connect this movie to messages that aren’t meant to connect. Maybe it is just the story of a guy who survives despite all the odds. But I can’t shake the feeling that we’re supposed to leave this movie feeling differently about the rules of war and what we need to do to bring Americans home safely.
(Photo: Digital Trends)