Monday, January 13, 2014

"Lone Survivor" lives against all odds.

Was the mission portrayed in the new movie Sole Survivor cursed from the beginning? It doesn’t appear so at first, but later, in the new Afghan war film starring Mark Wahlberg, it shows how an undercover Navy Seal mission code named Operation Red Wings encounters almost completely fatal opposition by the Taliban.

The team is inserted by helicopter into the Afghan landscape and hikes deep into rocky and forested mountain terrain. Their objective is to maintain a look out on a village and then terminate resident Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.
Excellent cinematography in the film shows panoramic mountain vistas, majestic sun rises and the rugged beauty of terrain in Afghanistan. Costumes, setting and varied characters add dynamic realism.

Sole Survivor opens with scenes of Navy Seal training. Soaked by waves on a beach for hours. Crawls through mud. Jumps into a swimming pool with tied feet. Interspersed scenes depict the Taliban. In one an Afghan man is getting his head hacked off.

While hidden in brush waiting for their target to appear, goats and three Afghan goat herders stumble upon the team and are captured. What to do? They carry a radio and that's evidence they’re Taliban. But one’s a boy, one’s an old man and the third is young adult with a scornful face. The team debates whether to “Terminate the compromise,” "tie them up," or "free them." The first option is murderous but appears the safest way to secure the mission. Team commander Michael Murphy, portrayed by Taylor Kitsch, orders the goat herders set free.

One released prisoner leap frogs down rocky slopes apparently with news of what he has encountered. Later the Seals see a nearby ridge alive with Taliban.
The ensuing carnage grips the theater and propels the film into some of the best war movie action I’ve seen. The Seal Team inflicts enormous damage on the Taliban, but so outnumbered are the Americans that they get forced back time and again by not only rifle but rocket and machine gun fire.

Repeatedly they tumble down rock slopes amid explosions, wounded and hurting but returning fire. The visualizations are outstanding.
When two double bladed chinook helicopters arrive with reinforcements, one is demolished by an enemy rocket. The other flies away amid a palpable sense of wrecked hope.
The death scenes of the three Americans who perish are slowed and highlight their demises.

I felt the story of how Marcus Luttrell lived the most compelling part of the movie. If you like war movies, and if you’re not bothered by the politics of the war in Afghanistan, I’d say go to this film. I give it an eight on a scale of one to ten.      

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