Reading about the true events that inspired Lone Survivor
brought a tear to my eye. Watching Peter Berg’s movie made me queasy. The film centers on 2005’s failed Operation Red Wings—a mission to remove a high-profile Taliban target in the mountains of Afghanistan that instead resulted in the death of 19 American soldiers—and it lionizes its heroes while utterly demonizing their enemies. Berg clearly has nothing but reverence for the armed forces, but that admiration renders him incapable of portraying anything dispassionately: Lone Survivor
has little more nuance than the average recruitment poster. The film aims to show the soldiers’ personalities via their response to the dire situation—they’re vastly outnumbered, with malfunctioning communications equipment and nowhere to go. It’s a battle-heavy approach that only occasionally works. We know these guys, played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch. They are tough and fiercely loyal to one another, but the characterization largely stops there. It’s a Passion of the Christ
-like flogging in which Berg shows every graphic detail of the soldiers’ ordeal, but examines nothing of what made them so impressive in the first place.