The title kind of gives away the ending of this harrowing true story, which is worth a look despite its tendency to exaggerate the heroics. But it's also an unusually well-made military thriller that throws us right into the middle of the chaos with visceral filmmaking. And it's impossible to miss the point that these men rely on each other every moment of every day: they certainly can't survive alone.
The events take place in 2005 Afghanistan, where a Navy Seal team is sent into the mountains to find a feared Taliban leader (Azami). These men are like brothers, with Marcus (Wahlberg) leading Mike, Matt and Danny (Kitsch, Foster and Hirsch), under the command of Erik (Bana) back at the base. As they head out on their mission, everything goes to plan until they run into a group of innocent goatherds. Letting them go will compromise their mission, but it's clearly the right thing to do. And this decision sparks an escalating situation that seems increasingly hopeless.
From the very start, we know these Seals aren't normal soldiers: they undergo especially gruelling training and then bond tightly as colleagues, relying on their ruggedness, tenacity and camaraderie. Which of course allows writer-director Berg to portray them as superheroes. This is a problem, because it reduces the Afghans to faceless, murderous villains, at least until the much more complex final act in which an entire village risks its life to save an injured American soldier. And this strikingly moving sequence is the one we remember much more than the chest-pounding patriotism.
Thankfully, the film's performances are grounded all the way through, with Wahlberg and Kitsch providing the tough-guy heroics opposite more engagingly layered work from Foster and Hirsch. There's also a nice turn from Ludwig as a rookie back at the base. And as the events progress, the cast and crew make the most of each heart-stopping sequence with energetic filmmaking and astonishingly bone-crunching stunt work. While these guys might be a bit too macho to identify with, we can't help but be inspired by their dedication and resilience.
Run time: 121 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th January 2014
Box Office USA: $125.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $149.3M
Distributed by: Universal Studios
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Closest to the Hole Productions, Emmett/Furla Films, Envision Entertainment Corporation, Film 44, Foresight Unlimited, Herrick Entertainment, Hollywood Studios International, Leverage Management, Spikings Entertainment, Weed Road Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 151 Rotten: 50
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Peter Berg
Screenwriter: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch as Mike Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz, Ben Foster as Matt Axelson, Yousuf Azami as Shah, Ali Suliman as Gulab, Eric Bana as Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, Alexander Ludwig as Shane Patton, Rich Ting as James Suh, Dan Bilzerian as Healy, Jerry Ferrara as Hasslert, Rick Vargas as Crew Chief, Scott Elrod as Peter Musselman, Gregory Rockwood as Chinook Pilot No. 1, Ryan Kay as Chinook Pilot No. 2, Patrick Griffin as Chinook Co-Pilot, Josh Berry as Communication SEAL, Eric Steinig as SEAL Lieutenant, David Shepard as CJSOTF Commander, Justin Tade as CJSOTF Marine, Sterling Jones as Bagram Comms Guy, Jason Riggins as 50 Cal Gunner, Matthew Page as Army Intel Guy, Johnny Bautista as Lt. Edwards, Sammy Sheik as Taraq, Nicholas Patel as Goat Boy, Daniel Arroyo as Teenage Goat Boy, Zarin Rahimi as Goat Man, Rohan Chand as Gulab's Young Son, Anthony McKenzie as TOC Sr. Air Officer, Brian Call as TOC SEAL, Ishmael Antonio as Doctor, Samuel Cloud as JAG, Perparim 'Peter' Bici as Communication SEAL Perry, Henry Penzi as Villager, Robert Loerke as Captain Jacoby, Kurt Carlson as Captain Lovas, Daniel Fulcoly as Lt. Andrews, Michael P. Herrmann as Wallace, Paul Craig as 'EOD' Paul, Zabiullah Mirzai as Zabi, John Hocker as Hocker, Robert H. Doudell as Village Elder, Hillel Michael Shamam as Angry Villager, Edmund Blanchet as PJ No. 1, Jim Cusic as PJ No. 2, Corey Large as SEAL Captain Kenney (uncredited)
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