Monday, December 02, 2013

'Lone Survivor': Courage in Afghanistan

December 1, 2013

From left, Peter Berg, Retired petty officer 1st class Marcus Luttrell and Mark Wahlberg arrive at the 2013 AFI FEST premiere of “Lone Survivor” at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 in Los Angeles. (AP/Jordan Strauss/Invision)
We've all heard the condemnation of American military brutality from the left. But the same critics are largely silent about the opposite message of Lone Survivor, the new war film about American special warriors scheduled soon for general release.
The movie tells the story of a four-man SEAL team on secret mission in Afghanistan who, despite the obvious danger, allow a Taliban warrior to go free rather than do what would save their lives -- execute him as pragmatic survival doctrine dictates.
They make the humane choice and, sure enough, they pay the price.
As a result of their fateful decision, three out of the four die in violent fashion -- one by one, riddled with rifle and machine gun fire, sliced and chunked by grenades and rockets, and beaten bloody by the rocky terrain and cliffs they are fighting to survive and prevail in.
Did they make the right decision?
That's for the viewer to decide. But after viewing this film, you won't say they are brutes. They are strong, intelligent men with deep feelings for each other and even the people they fight. Somebody has to do what they do or the evil will of others will be imposed on the rest of us. Marcus Luttrell is the SEAL who first argues for release of the young Taliban warrior and an accompanying boy and an old man, all of whom are herding goats and by chance stumble on the hidden SEALs, thus creating the predicament for the Americans. Luttrell also convinces the other three SEALs to let the Afghans go.
Luttrell is the Lone Survivor and the movie is terrific. More than any war movie I've seen lately, it shows the brotherhood and camaraderie between warriors -- and the depth and honor of their commitment. It is also very violent. Be prepared to wince a lot and be on the edge of your seat. I read the Lutrell's nonfiction book, co-written with military novelist Patrick Robinson, several years ago. It was one of the best books I'd read in quite some time. I expected a Leftist indictment, either so goofy that it would be ridiculed by critics, or the addition of a character who is a "reporter" pointing out the evil of the SEALs. But I understand, joking or not, Luttrell told the producers he'd kill them if they didn't tell the truth (Luttrell is a large and earnest fellow) -- a story I have not checked. But the film, in credit to director Peter Berg, is pretty much as the book related it.
The mission that went awry takes place in 2005, early in the Afghan War. What Luttrell and his SEAL brothers went through is hard to imagine. It is vividly portrayed in the movie. How he survived is testament to an ethic we're losing in America -- the will to prevail against all odds, usually instilled by a parent, tradition, or role models. But sometimes it's inherent. It produces fighting spirit obvious in this movie. Luttrell is from Texas where they still revere such traits. And, of course, he was a SEAL where the ethic is prerequisite, as the film's beginning shows.
The movie stars Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, along with Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch as well as a terrific supporting cast. I didn't think Wahlberg had it in him, but I understand he underwent some of the rigorous SEAL training before shooting and he actually blew up about soft and "privileged" Hollywood types at a recent prescreening -- he was that imbued with what he'd learned. Reviews from the mainstream, leftist press, while generally acknowledging the film's quality, have been noticeably curt and dismissive. The left either doesn't get it, or doesn't want others to get it. Even the Hollywood Reporter couches its description with catch-phrases like "gung-ho manliness" and has to ask the question, "Is such sacrifice worth it?"
The answer depends on whether one prizes freedom and liberty. Look at history; it is a chronicle of war. As evil as it is, war is relentlessly with us and, as long as imperfect humans vie for power, will continue to be so. The question is not, is the sacrifice worth it? The question is, when will we recognize and salute the sacrifice?
Obviously not now, not in our leftist-controlled country. Not the way we used to. Ironically, without such sacrifice, the causes the Left champions so vigorously -- women's rights, gay rights, the right to choose -- would be greatly curtailed, if not extinguished. Special forces, in the form of "Frogmen" and "Jedburghs" (OSS special forces) helped prevent the Axis countries from destroying freedom. Forces like them have been doing the same in all the wars since. Today, the SEALs and other American special forces battle the darkest freedom destroyers, radical Islamists.
Do you value your head? Do you value your beliefs?
The ending of Lone Survivor has been somewhat Hollywoodized from what I read in the book, probably to give it a more rousing finish. Movies are allowed that license. As they say at the beginning, "based on truth." Still, one still gets a good sense of what happened in those terrible mountains in 2005. Despite the violence, the film presents a hopeful and meaningful story, even a tear-jerker from the twist at the end which really happened and provides little-known insight into the Afghan people and the war America fought there and may continue to fight.
If you want to understand the kind of conflict the best of the best are fighting today, this movie shows it. Every day must be Thanksgiving for Luttrell. As the film has him say in voiceover at the finish: "Part of me died with my brothers in Afghanistan." The other part is wiser, grateful, and more humble. Hopefully Americans will see the film and get a better understanding of the commitment and honor inherent in our best fighting men along with insight into what they are doing in our defense.

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