Not all soldiers are heroes, but in Lone Survivor, director Peter Berg's film based on the book by Marcus Luttrell, heroism is in full display. The movie's three acts are well defined: first, the rigorous training of a team of Navy Seals, then a covert mission of four men on a mountain to take out a key target known as Operation Red Wings, and third, an Afghan village in the aftermath of this operation. When asked whether or not this was a movie for or against war, Mark Wahlberg who portrays Luttrell and is also a producer, said, "Neither. This film is pro soldier."
The sense of duty to the job at hand provides a moral compass. When goatherds discover the men on the mountain, a debate ensues: should these unarmed locals be eliminated? The soldiers adhere to their job, to the rules that define how Americans behave in such circumstance, to tragic end. At a recent luncheon at The Monkey Bar, with cast members Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, and Ben Foster joining director Peter Berg and Marcus Luttrell, the survivor and author was asked if he was thinking about the men he left behind on the mountain when he was saved and taken to a nearby Afghan village. Marcus Luttrell said he was thinking about putting one foot in front of the other to survive. Mohammed, an Afghan man saves his life, and even protects him when the Taliban come to kill the American, and burn down the Afghan village. The villagers stand up to the Taliban, enforcing their own higher laws of hospitality: if you take someone in, you are responsible for their life. You see the bond between Marcus and Mohammed. And despite the differences in language and culture, the men are bonded to this day. When Mohammed Gulab was introduced the night before at the movie's premiere at the Ziegfeld, the audience was told this was his first visit to New York, his first time in a theater, and the cheers were heartfelt. The movie makes you consider the nature of evil, as well as how you would behave when threatened by evil.
Yes, this movie is graphic. You hate to see Ben Foster's face all bloodied and swollen and of course that's the least of it for the brave soldier, Matthew "Axe" Axelson, he portrays. Foster reminds you, "Well it's only make believe." But there is something close to home here. At the premiere I spoke to a fireman from Fire House 53 in Manhattan known as "Canine" whose uniform was embellished with Lt. Michael P. Murphy's patch. "Murph" (Taylor Kitsch) was the team leader and it was his decision that imperiled the group, but his persistence on a phone device also brought help, however tentative.
Mark Wahlberg plays the sole survivor and the actor could not have been more in awe of the man he portrays, but he was also quick to say, as he was applauded, he was happy to see that women could be as mesmerized by the story as he was.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.