Murph: The Protector: Hagiography for a SEAL


Posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007 for his service as a Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael P. Murphy is celebrated as a man of staunch integrity and selflessness by Murph: The Protector. That depiction is presented as virtually unassailable by writer/director Scott Mactavish’s documentary, which via a blandly conventional mixture of interviews, photos, and archival footage recounts how Murphy was a well-educated team player who always had his friends’ backs, from standing up to schoolyard bullies on behalf of weaker kids to risking his life to make a battlefield phone call to save his wounded comrades. The film lionizes unabashedly, with Murphy’s mother, father, cousins, friends and fellow soldiers all telling anecdotes about how the SEAL was defined by his dedication to helping others. Such an uncomplicated portrait may be faithful to Murphy, who in all accounts comes across as a paragon of loyalty and heroism deserving of the many accolades he received after death. Yet, no matter its veracity, that veneration is the only point conveyed throughout, and in cinematic terms, it renders Murph: The Protector a one-note hagiography, no matter how convincing and affecting its portrait of unimpeachable courage.