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Lone Survivor Is a Jingoistic Snuff Film About a Navy SEAL

<I>Lone Survivor</I> Is a Jingoistic Snuff Film About a Navy SEAL
Universal Studios

Here's a movie that'll flop in Kabul. Lone Survivor, the latest by Battleship director Peter Berg, is a jingoistic snuff film about a Navy SEAL squadron outgunned by the Taliban in the mountainous Kunar province. After four soldiers — played with muscles and machismo by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster — get ID'd by Afghan goatherds, they're in a race to climb to the top of the nearest summit and summon an airlift before these civilians can sprint to the nearest village and alert local leader Ahmad Shah. It doesn't go well.

Berg's flick bleeds blood red, bone-fracture white, and bruise blue. It's based on the memoir Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by sole evacuee Marcus Luttrell (played by Wahlberg) — and that's only a spoiler if you've ignored the title. Luttrell didn't exactly write his book. Rather than sitting in front of a word processor, he was back in action in Iraq. Instead, the United States Navy hired British novelist Patrick Robinson, who, among other embellishments, upped the number of enemy Taliban fighters from 10 to 200. Hey, whatever, man. Those aliens in Battleship weren't real, either.

Lone Survivor's problems are more complex than its Rambo-esque exuberance for machine-gun fire. The near-wordless second half is a deadly dubstep of bullets and snare drums punctuated with the occasional curse. Here's 90 seconds of dialogue transcribed in its entirety: "Goddamn, this sucks!" "Fuck you!" "Fuck!" "Damn, fucking burns!" This doesn't help advance the plot, which can pretty much be summed up as: Don't die. And the film actually gets worse when the guys open their mouths.

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Location Info

Map

AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13‎

1998 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: West 60s

Details

Lone Survivor
Written and directed by Peter Berg
Universal Studios
Opens December 25, AMC Loews Lincoln Square



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These four men were heroes. But these heroes were also men. As the film portrays them, their attitudes to the incredibly complex war on terror, fought hillside by bloody hillside in the Afghan frontier with both U.S. and Taliban forces contributing to an unconscionably high civilian body count, were simple: brown people bad, American people good. When the guys debate whether to kill the three goatherds who've stumbled onto their hiding place — a dilemma that, morality aside, could have been solved if any of them had recalled that middle school logic problem about the fox, the chicken, the feed, and the too-small boat — Foster grabs an unarmed teenager by the face and insists, "That's death. Look at death." And when the firefight starts, he bellows, "You can die for your country — I'm going to live for mine."

We're meant to cheer, not that anyone in my theater did. But there will be audiences who do, and I'm not entirely sure I'm comfortable with what they're cheering for. This is death. Look at death.

Berg is no dummy. He's done the right thing by refusing to turn these guys into saints, although three of the four are depicted as devoted husbands and fiancés, and the fourth gets to be Mark Wahlberg. And Berg is justified in hoisting these guys up as real-life action stars, building his case with an opening montage of actual Navy SEAL training footage in which screaming instructors winnow a pack of athletes into an all-for-one-one-for-all band of badass brothers who, when forced to float in freezing ocean waves, link arms and sing "Silent Night."

They were ready for action. "We wanted that fight at the highest volume," Wahlberg says, "the loudest, coldest, darkest, most unpleasant of the unpleasant fights." OK, but did the local villagers, whom we see get caught in the crossfire, want that fight? Each, like Wahlberg's Luttrell, had families and friends and a full life, and each gets dispatched without a second thought.

I'd like to think that, on some level, Berg is questioning the sense of a film — and a foreign policy — that makes target practice of our magnificent teams of hard-bodied, hairy-chested, rootin'-tootin', shootin', parachutin', double-cap-crimpin' frogmen, these soldiers who decorate their bunks with baby pictures of themselves next to an American flag and are so nobly eager to sacrifice their lives for each other and their country. But the ammo doesn't stop blasting long enough for their deaths to have weight. Instead, Lone Survivor just reads like a quasi-political exaggeration of a slasher film: the cellphones that don't work, the rescuers just out of reach, the killers chasing our victims through the woods.

What are we meant to learn from this waste of life? Who is even to blame? All Lone Survivor offers is the queasiest apology of the year. Grunts a battered Wahlberg to his even more battered best buddy, "I'm sorry that we didn't kill more of these motherfuckers." Replies his fellow soldier, "Oh, don't be fucking sorry. We're going to kill way more of them."

 
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15 comments
off.doug
off.doug

I am not usually one to become a keyboard warrior and respond in this type of forum, but after seeing Lone Survivor and then coming on line to learn more about the real men, I need to comment.

The movie is brilliant. It depicts the story of what happened in all it’s brutality. Sure it alters some of the facts along the way and the ending to the real story, but I don’t care.

It doesn’t glorify war. It is does not take sides. It is not jingoistic. It is the telling of a real story, about real men, who faced with difficult choices made real decisions and faced real consequences.

As an Australian, I don’t have a political bias in the American context. I simply don’t understand the differences of opinion between Republicans and Democrats. Similarly my views on the war in Afghanistan would not sit well with a lot of Americans, But the point of the movie is not about those views.

I do want to comment on some of the disgusting things I have read on various sites whilst learning more about the men in the story.

One idiot questioned why the cast didn’t feature an African American, or an Italian or Jew. It is a true story!!!!! If one of the characters had been of a different ethnicity in real life it would have been in the movie. There is no white-Anglo conspiracy on that. It is just a fact.

Another fool actually suggested that Luttrell himself was somehow responsible for what happened and that if he had manned up and taken the decision to kill the 3 captives when he had the chance then it all would have been OK. I felt sick when I read this. I have nothing but respect for Luttrell.

The number of supposed ex military personnel that have written in to say Marines are better than Seals are better than Green Berets are better than Rangers are better than …… And they would have done it better is amazing. No one can comment on what happened in that way. The situation was as it was. What happened, happened. For an anonymous jerk to claim to be better from the safety of their keyboard again makes me sick.

Finally, I don’t understand the whole American v American rhetoric that exists in a lot of the angry posts I have read. On one hand, if someone from outside like me, makes comments that are seen as attacking the USA you stand as one and point out all that is great about your nation. But at the same time, when the left is seen to be attacking the right, the language used by the right is frightening. I truly hope that your nation is not on the verge of civil war. I truly hope that you don’t ask your armed services to take arms against your own people.

I truly hope that I have just stumbled across those that are prepared to hide behind their keyboards.

I am writing this because the movie and its story moved me in away I did not expect it to and in trying to learn more about the brave men who died I felt compelled to write.

In closing I will ask one what if question.

What if the old man or the young boy the Seals let go turned out to be the ones that got Luttrell, and helped him. There is no answer of course, but for those who said kill first, it might make you pause to think. If Lone Survivor was made to the Hollywood formula, the young boy at the end would have been the young boy let go!!

MindyBoo
MindyBoo

Sorry, but the chicken, the feed, the fox and the too small boat isn't really the logic to apply here. The only unstated option is to take the goatherds with them back over the mountain. When the decided to follow the rules of engagement and then the radio failed to work they were pretty much already dead. This is based on the distance from safety and the inescapable physics of a mountainside. It is much easier to go down than to go up. They basically died to save the lives of the goatherds who wanted them dead.


My husband was at Mazari Sharif. Even if men weren't allergic to asking for directions, it's not like they knew which village would be friendly and you can only carry so much food and water on your back. If you want to know a place where geography is just another thing trying to kill you, my husband has offered to drop you into the Ox Bow so you can see how much fun it is without all the shooting. They don't have lattes and cell reception there either.


Would you have been happier if it were a blonde coed if flip-flops who just can't resist opening that door?

Anonymous416
Anonymous416

Amy,

Firstly, my father and my sister are both reporters at the boston globe. They always laugh and make fun of the scathing comments left on their articles. They also sometimes take huge offense to the ignorant comments some people leave on them. It's so easy for people to leave you anonymous crap and feel smart or good about themselves. So I apologize if I turn out to be one of those jerks that I've just described. I also feel fairly hypocritical as I've just made an account on this page and my username is "anonymous" but it's because I'm a navy seal and I'm writing this to u in Afghanistan. Feel free to call over or email the globe and ask for Scott, my father, he was in investigative reporting and is now an editor. My sister Evan who works the metro desk.

Seals are incredibly well read and informed. We read articles about public opinion on the war we are fighting. We read and watch all the feedback on all this navy seal publicity, post bin Ladens death. We put up with all the negativity and accusations surrounding this war because we know that only a handful of people really know what's going on over here. I guess it is not your fault that you have no idea what it's like to be in war, but be careful about what you say about the men actually doing the fighting.

My platoon read this article today. I showed it to them to see how they would react even though I knew beforehand. They used words like "fuck" which didn't advance the conversation. This article is a jest. It is the embodiment of American entitlement. I am literally fighting for people like you. And people like you would jump on an opportunity to write some awful

Spencer Tiberius Rappaport
Spencer Tiberius Rappaport

you dont need guns and ammo and an enemy to have brotherhood. Maybe if we carried that spirit to everyone on an everyday level there'd be no need for armies and war and professional overseers of those who go into the meat grinder Oh right, but we're all hippie dreamers...the world will always burn as long as men want something thats not theirs.

Bill Stinchcomb
Bill Stinchcomb

Waaaa! This movie didn't give me a warm fuzzy hug and a kumbaya!

Philip C. Ballard
Philip C. Ballard

F you Village Voice!! Did you even watch the entire film or any of Marcus Luttrell's interviews. It's not glorifying war. Its a true story of brotherhood and war. By your standard, any military movie is jingoist military porn. So dim witted and myopic!

Brian Neuls
Brian Neuls

You had me at 'Sent Glenn Beck into a rage'. I don't need to read it. It's perfect.

GoState
GoState

Amy,


Your article's title states that Lone Survivor is a snuff film that is overly patriotic and chauvinistic. I understand that you are writing for a tabloid-esque news source, but I feel compelled to share my opinion with you. Think of it as a compliment as you only have three comments before this one (Extra views for you! Maybe this will help you get a promotion!). Firstly, your writing is laced with condescension and snide remarks. You make wildly inaccurate assertions about the real-life characters portrayed in the film as well as the actors and filmmakers who appear in Lone Survivor. Firstly, Marcus Luttrell did indeed gain a vast amount of assistance in writing his book from a professional writer. I cannot prove the number of Taliban that were present in the firefight, but neither can you. Therefore, instead of stating that the number of Taliban was greatly exaggerated, you should have questioned how many Taliban fighters were actually present. Secondly, you compare the nonfiction Red Wings battle to the fictitious Rambo. Really? Do you understand what war is? I really don't think you do. This movie wasn't based on a science-fiction novel, it was based on a first-hand account of an actual battle. If simply watching the firefight was too intense for you, I suggest you view films of a different genre. You display your ignorance of warfare by stating that the second half of the film is "wordless" and that every word during the battle is profane. I would hope that you have the common sense to understand that when in an individual is in an intense, life-threatening situation, they're usually not going to utter the most eloquent words. You also assert that the entire plot of the film is "don't die." Well put Captain Obvious. IT'S A MOVIE ABOUT A COMPROMISED MILITARY OPERATION IN WHICH THE TALIBAN IS TRYING TO KILL A SEVERELY OUTNUMBERED GROUP OF NAVY SELAS. Sorry to reiterate this again, but the goal of war is to not die when you're a soldier on either side. War movie characters are usually soldiers who don't want to die. Lone Survivor is a war movie with soldiers... Hmmmmm. I am pleasantly surprised that you consider the actual Navy SEALS to be heroes. However, you attempt downplay their heroism by stating the they were simply men who did not understand the "complex war on terror." DO you really think that they didn't understand it? Who are you to say such a thing? Oh that's right, you're a journalist, which means you know everything. The weakest point you made in your article, both cinematically and politically, is found here: "Brown people bad, American people good." Never once did they say anything about an individual's skin color or insinuate anything about it during the film. They decided not to kill the goat herders (who were connected to the Taliban and turned them in, resulting in the ensuing madness) because they followed the rules of engagement. Therefore, your accusations of race are false. To further my point on race, Luttrell actually praised the Pushtan villagers of Afghanistan. Guess what? THEY WERE NOT AMERICAN AND HAD DARK SKIN. That part of the film exemplifies the good of humanity in some of the most war-stricken areas. Also, Foster/Axelson doesn't grab the boy by the face, but rather around the neck when he tried to escape and alert the Taliban of their presence. Just so you know, the Taliban wouldn't give them a welcome greeting, as displayed in the firefight. You state that you refuse to cheer for death, that's great. I too wish that there wasn't any war or death in the world. But because there are evil people in the world, it's ruined for the both of us as well as everyone else. War is a nasty thing, but people sacrificed their lives so that you and I can be typing on our computers and living freely. Thus I found Foster/Axelson's dialogue completely justifiable given the situation. You stated that Berg attempted to "hoist these guys up as real-life action stars" by displaying the actual training that SEALS go through. Well, that was real footage as you mentioned, and they actually went through very difficult situations ultimately leading to three-plus American deaths. Therefore, they were action stars who gave the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in. You ponder "What are we to learn from this waste of life?" Waste of life? They didn't die for absolutely nothing. These brave men died for their country and our freedom. "Who's to even blame?" The Taliban... The people that killed them. Again, did you watch the film?

yonjuro
yonjuro

I love watching saracens die.

gold
gold

And guess what: 9/11 religious violence and murder  never happened. Must be our mistake. Odd - why does anyone from the rest of the US bother to defend NYC from the next 9/11? Answer: because most NYC are worth it.  Doesn't matter that a few don't get it. Or they get it but are embarrassed to admit it OR are Trotskyites and adhere to party discipline. Fellow weeds, Trotsky is dead. And the rest of the US military knows it which is why NYC will never be under Sharia.  Margaret Sanger's weeds (Google it) , that's what we are -  we survive anything. War? Read Xenophon and Livy. 

JoeD
JoeD

Leftist trash feeling bad about the deaths of men who light children on fire with kerosene and throw acid in women's faces' for wanting to get an education. Thank God we have Navy Seals to kill these idiots so they don't kill us. 

MindyBoo
MindyBoo

@Anonymous416 Stay strong and only stick your head up to take well-aimed shots. We need you guys back here after you've shown as many Tali guys the error of their ways as possible. I don't think anyone here knows just how long this really is going to take. So deal with as many as you can before they drag you to the C130.


It may seem like there is an endless supply of those crazy f*ckers but pretend it's like the star fish on the beach. It sure as hell makes a difference to that one.


I may, just for you guys, make a special trip to New York just to get a paper copy of this rag for the bottom of my parakeet's cage. How many copies should I buy?

Anonymous416
Anonymous416

Review where u litter it with condescension towards the men I serve with. I'm disappointed that this is what is flying around the internet

MindyBoo
MindyBoo

I think you mean to say you don't need guns and an enemy to have a brotherhood because some other dudes with guns and brotherhood are shooting your enemies for you. 


I bet your garbage disappears in a puff of fairy dust too. The world isn't what you think it is Spence. Still, if there were more hippo dreamers I could walk home safe at night because you would all be totally baked.

 

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