Lone Survivor

Emile Hirsch and Mark Wahlberg serve with highest honor.Photo: Universal Pictures
5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Smitten with Peter Berg, who enjoys a Lifetime Pass for The Rundown.
What I Thought: Absolutely not to be missed; deserves to take its place in the annals alongside The Hurt Locker.

Lone Survivor. Dir. Peter Berg. Perf. Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Ali Suliman, Rohan Chand, Sammy Sheik, Yousuf Azami. Universal Pictures, 2014.

The true account of a SEAL team who were forced into a gut-wrenching decision leading to unthinkable odds.

While watching the likes of G.I. Jane and the untold intolerability of military training of a “special nature” and “accelerated tempo”  (I think I myself almost passed out when hearing that term), I always wonder, “If this is what they go through just to be prepared to begin to stand a chance at facing something… what must that something be?”

Well, this is it.

Here we meet a Navy SEAL team serving as part of Operation Red Wings, who when their presence is discovered face an untenable moral dilemma.

Logic dictates a course of action; legality demands another; humanity requires a third. The first option, likely physical survival and emotional death; the second, a lose-lose crap shoot; the third, likely emotional survival and physical death. Do you want to live and regret it, or die today and accept it? And how do you decide, when neither outcome is assured?

It would be amusing to cite these, in homage to director Peter Berg, as “Options A, B, and C” ~ were not this the most serious of circumstances, with the most dire of moral consequence. The dilemma put to all of us, both the SEAL team and we the viewers, requires us to examine at what point, if any, we cease to trust to hope (or chance, or the Universe, or whatever drives one’s cosmology). Do we abandon it and live in the compromise, or do we adhere to it come what may and trust that it will uphold right action… even unto death?

Peter Berg is a director of the first order, and the cast can rest assured that they afford great honor to the men they portray, which was clearly their deeply heartfelt intent. Berg and company depict valor, grit, and courage in a manner unlike any we’ve seen before; the result is profoundly moving, and actually offers hope for humanity in the unlikeliest of ways.

The fact that that Berg can direct both The Rundown and Lone Survivor with equal and superlative skill proves that he’s an under-recognized megatalent. (The Rundown is one of the funniest films ever, and that’s not just my opinion; we voted it so over at We Got This Covered for our Top 100 list.) It’s uncommon enough to be remarkably skilled in one area, much less two polar opposites.

Recently I myself, a waitress serving my table, and my dinner companion all became emotional discussing some of the particulars of what happened here. And my dinner companion hadn’t even seen it. And it was three weeks after the fact.

“Lone Survivor” and its principals will remain with you long after the lights come up and the gunshots fade away. “We are never stronger than when we are one,” says the tagline. And “one” reaches further than one might imagine.

Must bump that Peter Berg entry to the top of my task list…

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