"Lone Survivor": A True Story of Heroism That Will Move You
It’s difficult not to take advantage of the proximity of Beirut Souks’ Cinema City, which is just a few hundred meters from my office. As such, I’ve occasionally found myself making a beeline for the movies in the early evening right after work, rather than curse my fate behind the wheel at the treacherous peak hour traffic.
Yesterday was one such night. Rather spontaneously, I popped into the cinema, scanned the list of available screenings and show times, saw Mark Wahlberg’s name in the list of actors for “Lone Survivor,” and quickly nabbed a ticket. Two minutes later, I was settled comfortably in a near-empty stadium that could easily host 300 viewers. A young adolescent couple in the nosebleed seats and a few middle-aged men in suits (also looking to dodge traffic?) were my movie companions.
“Lone Survivor” tells the story of four Navy SEALs who, on June 28, 2005, were tasked with the mission of capturing or killing a Taliban ringleader and his minions in the mountains of Afghanistan. Their mission quickly thrusts them at a moral dilemma, as they are discovered by a goat herder and his two sons who stumble upon their hideout. They persistently attempt to reach their commander by radio to obtain instructions, but the connection is weak, and they must decide for themselves on how to proceed. The SEALs can either release the captives, retreat higher into the mountains to scope out any attackers, and call for aerial support; they can tie up the captives and leave them to fend for themselves, in which case they will likely be eaten by wolves or freeze to death; or they can kill them and leave, free from obstruction to continue their operation.
This intense moral predicament holds their lives in the balance, and honestly, I think few of us are aware of the acute ethical decisions soldiers have to make every day at combat. I, for one, recoil from the concept of war and tend to dismiss soldiers’ activities as routine and mindless point-and-shoot, involving little mercy or compassion. The movie turned my thinking on its face: I witnessed the four men arbitrate deeply about what to do, each engaging his own moral compass to decide the fate of the three herdsmen. In the end, they choose to release them, in line with the US Rules of Engagement, which forbid the murder of civilians. Ultimately, this heart-rending decision imperils the Navy SEALs, as one of the freed boys rushes to the village to inform the Al-Qaeda warriors, who in almost no time prep their accouterments and make an ambush.
In nearly one hour of on-screen heart-stopping action, gut-wrenching images, violence, blood, and gore, the viewer is exposed to the ill-fated outcome of the Navy SEALs and 16 helicopter-transported soldiers who rush to their aid, albeit haplessly. Only one survives to tell the story, and he is Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), petty officer first class. He is rescued by an audacious Afghan man from a Pashtun village who, in adhering to Pashtunwali code of honor, protects his wounded guest and hides him from the Taliban rebels. And thus is Marcus’ life spared, after which he is saved by US army rangers who come to his succor.
A bit of research on the reality of the movie’s depictions confirms that most of it is real. But even before you grasp this, I guarantee you will walk out of the movie with goose bumps, totally awe-struck at the courage, fearlessness, and determination these SEALs exhibited in the face of combat. The total commitment they and thousands of others give their countries when they sign up for duty, exchanging a life of security and peace for one of hardship and loneliness; the awareness that death is not only possible but highly probable; that even if they survive, they’ll have seen their peers die gruesome deaths. You will be spellbound and moved beyond belief by their stories. Theirs is a unique breed of selflessness I’ve rarely beheld.