"Lone Survivor" is getting positive nods in early reviews, but for its stars, the most important part was staying true to the story.
Lone Survivor, starring Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg, tells the story of Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael Murphy, who in 2005 led a four-man Navy SEAL team on a surveillance mission in a remote mountainous region in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. Their mission, code-named Operation Red Wings, was compromised when three unarmed goat herders, including a young teen, stumbled on their location. Murphy and his fellow SEALS - Matthew (Axe) Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) had to choose between killing the innocent civilians or letting them go and possibly compromising the mission. Choosing the latter meant that the team was soon discovered and three of the four were killed by a much larger enemy force.
Kitsch faced a challenge with the role of Lt. Michael Murphy.
Both Kitsch and Wahlberg have expressed in interviews their commitment to keeping the film as honest and close to the experiences of real servicemen and women as possible. Even so, Kitsch was reportedly extremely nervous when he had to face his most important critic – Michael Murphy’s father, Daniel. Since working on Lone Survivor, Kitsch has stayed close to the Murphys, hosting a special screening for family and friends two weeks ago at the Regal Cinemas Ronkonkoma Stadium 9, then hoisting beers and trading stories afterward with the real “Murph’s” childhood friends.
“I knew Daniel was seeing it, so when he wrote me an incredible email the next day, it was more of just a ‘Phew,’ ” the 32-year-old actor told the New York Daily News in a recent interview. “I laugh with him now about it . . . but honestly, I don’t know how I would’ve handled it if he and the family weren’t happy with it.”
Michael’s mother, Maureen, also thinks Kitsch’s portrayal was faithful to her son’s memory: “He doesn’t look like Mike, but he captured the essence of my son, his facial expressions, his mannerisms, his sense of humor.”
Early reviews of the Lone Survivor are still few and far between, but for the most part, critics seem to agree that the film is gritty and hard-hitting, faithful to the account penned by Murphy’s best friend and fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell, played in the movie by Marc Wahlberg. Currently, the film holds a 63% “fresh” rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, ahead of its release on Christmas day.
Lone Surivor is out in selected cinemas on Christmas Day.