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Film / Lone Survivor

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The Film of the Book by the same name, Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings and the death of SEAL team 10. Starring Mark Wahlberg and featuring an extended cameo by Marcus Luttrell himself (though not as himself), the story is slightly changed from Luttrell's original telling, and considerably truncated.

This work contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Axelson's final conversation with Luttrell. It's quickly broken up by the fight continuing, though.
  • Agony of the Feet: Multiple gunshot wounds to feet. By the time they end up separated, Marcus is the only soldier that wasn't shot in his feet yet.
  • All There in the Script: Numerous characters aren't named in the movie, but get both their names listed in the credits and are identified by their - often full - names in the book.
  • Anyone Can Die: Seeing as this is about an operation that went horribly wrong...
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Bullet to the leg? You could do an improvised tourniquet with a piece of cloth, but why not just shove the dirt cloth into the hole with your thumb and call it a day instead! Bullet to the gut? Puncturing the intestines is sure to lead to serious infections... slap some dirt on it to make absolutely sure your buddy dies from sepsis.
  • Boom, Headshot!: In the film, the SEALs score plenty of headshots, and it takes two for Axelson to finally go down.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Cruelly subverted, as Kristensen arriving with the other SEALs is treated as a Hope Spot… right up until a rocket-propelled grenade is fired directly into the Chinook's cargo bay and kills everyone aboard.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The old goat herder tells the team in Pashtun 'you will all die tonight.'
  • Break the Badass: Dietz breaks down under the stress of the fight, and eventually Luttrell suffers from both injuries and the deaths of his friends.
  • Brick Joke: While going over the rules of engagement and mission plan in the briefing, they discuss their radio protocol. The team is told to call in every two hours, and it is decided that if the team misses two consecutive radio calls, to "wake someone up" - slang for take serious action. Later, the CO is literally woken up by the team calling in on an unsecure satphone...after missing two consecutive radio calls.
  • The Cavalry:
    • Two Chinook choppers without any support speed up to the rescue. You can probably predict how this goes.
    • In the end, the full air rescue is send to the Kandish village, just in time to turn the tide of the ongoing skirmish.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Makarov pistol Taraq is shown carrying is used in the finale. Against him.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: How Luttrell is eventually saved - he's found by a local Pashtun and has to almost drag by force to safety from an incoming Taliban patrol.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Peter Berg is briefly seen as one of the SEALs jeering during at Shane Patton's dance sequence. Marcus Luttrell himself also appears in several scenes as the big unnamed SEAL with the full beard.
  • Death Glare: When the team captures the goat herders, the young boy watches them carefully, the old man looks at them with worry, and the young man gives them an infuriated Death Glare. Guess which one ends up ratting them out?
  • Defiant to the End: Luttrell, when he is nearly executed, is still calling out his would-be executioner.
  • Desk Jockey: SEAL newbie, Shane, resents being relegated to this position, wishing to join the battlefield.
  • Determinator: The entire SEAL team, but most notably Axelson. He keeps going until he runs out of bullets for both his rifle and his side arm and only then stops moving. That after taking multiple wounds of all kinds himself, including a (grazing) one to his head.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Considering the sheer premise of the story, done very well.
  • Died Standing Up: Lt. Murphy in the film, who falls to his knees in death, but never completely to the ground.
  • Dwindling Party: Until all that's left is one lone survivor.
  • Fingore: Dietz gets two of his finger shot off very early on - and he doesn't realise the actual damage until few minutes later.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Even if you hadn't heard the story the title is a less-than-subtle hint. Unfortunately, this actively deflates any possible drama, because the story really is this simple and the title alone summarises first 80 of the 110 minutes running time.
  • From Bad to Worse: The entire film is a story of an operation that went horribly wrong and the longer the engagement lasts, the worse it goes for the protagonists, with more and more things going sideways - including their cavalry being shot down.
  • Gorn: The film is quite graphic with the SEALs' injuries. SEALs don't die easily.
  • Gunship Rescue:
    • Subverted the first time, when one of the transport choppers is shot down and the other has to be pulled out.
    • Played straight the second time, where a proper rescue operation with full support is performed.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Murphy sacrifices himself to get a good signal in order to call in help.
  • Hope Spot: Thanks to Lt. Murphy's sacrifice, support aircraft are eventually called in for the surviving SEALs, but one is quickly shot down, killing all onboard, and forcing the other to withdraw immediately.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Patton wants nothing more than to join his brothers in arms on the battlefield. Considering the title of the book and film...
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
    • Zig-Zagged for the most part. The SEALs have had years of training that the Taliban members can't possibly compete with. Said that, the Taliban come off as bad shots by simple comparison, rather than actual poor accuracy, and then there is also the gear disparity to account for.
    • Played straight when Axelson is being finally killed. It takes three bullets for the Taliban to hit him from range of just few paces, where missing such shot shouldn't be even possible.
  • Instant Death Bullet: One of the most notable subversions in modern cinema. All the SEALs take multiple gunshot and even shrapnel wounds and just keep going. Granted, their do break down from fatigue and blood loss, while their combat capacity is gradually worn down, and three of them eventually get killed. But it takes multiple shots to bring each of them down and over prolonged time.
  • The Lady's Favour: Dietz's girlfriend wants him to return in one piece so they can remodel their home together.
  • Language Barrier: Naturally between Luttrell and his Pashtun hosts, leading to somewhat humorous exchanges.
  • Le Parkour: In the film, one Taliban member is shown swiftly leaping his way down the mountainous terrain with little effort.
  • Made of Iron: Luttrell, Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson are all wounded literally dozens of times before going down. Truth in Television, as BUD/S training, especially Hell Week, is designed to weed out everybody except men who are both superhumanly physically tough and mentally will not quit.
    PO2 Matt Axelson (with a bullet wound in the back of his head): Marcus, did they really shoot me in the fuckin' head?
    PO2 Marcus Luttrel: Uh...shit, yeah.
    PO2 Matt Axelson (reloading his sidearm): Damn it.
  • Meta Twist: When Axe and Marcus are having a heart-breaking chat about what is to be passed to Cindy, the whole scene is build up for the cliche "shot in the head mid-sentence". It never happens.
  • Mood Whiplash: Luttrell almost getting executed is immediately followed by a comedic scene where he asks for a knife and, due to the language barrier, initially gets a duck instead. This, in turn, is followed by Luttrell using said knife to dig shrapnel out of his wounded leg and sloooowly pull out a shard of metal nearly the size of his hand.
  • Nervous Wreck: As things become more and more hopeless, Dietz cracks under the pressure.
  • Nice Mean And In Between:
    • The McCoy: Luttrell, who votes to spare the captured shepherds, thereby dooming the mission.
    • The Spock: Axelson, who suggests killing the shepherds for the sake of the mission.
    • The Kirk: Lt. Murphy, who weighs both sides and ultimately chooses to abandon the mission and spare the shepherds.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Luttrell says he's from Texas near the end of the film, but Mark Wahlberg doesn't lose his signature Boston accent.
  • Off with His Head!: Luttrell comes close to suffering this traditional method of execution, but is narrowly saved by friendly Afghan Pashtun villagers.
  • Pet the Dog: Luttrell's scenes with the village boy.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • The film leaves out the extended period of time Luttrell spent with the villagers, all the relationships he built therein, and how Taliban fighters repeatedly broke in at night to beat and torture him. There is, however, a brief nod to it when he hugs a kid who helped him and says "thank you" right before leaving.
    • In the movie, a battered Marcus Luttrell stands up and limps to Mohammad Gulab's village. In real life, Luttrell had suffered multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds, a broken leg, and fractured vertebrae, and couldn't even get up on his knees. Instead, he crawled to the stream where Gulab found him. Across ten Goddamn miles of the Hindu Kush Mountains. The producers didn't think anyone would believe that.
    • In the book, the team takes a vote to decide the fate of the goatherders, and Luttrell casts the deciding vote after Murphy states he would go along with what Luttrell chose. This sparked a considerable controversy after the book was published and prompted a statement from Lt. Murphy's father claiming that his son would never hold a democratic vote to decide if someone should live or die, let alone a civilian. In the film, the team debates, bickers, begins to vote... and Lt. Murphy steps out from behind a tree and announces in ringing tones that he is in command and will make the decision. Theoretically, the only living person who knows the actual sequence of events is Luttrell.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Quoth the Pashtun villager, "F***! Taliban!"
  • Rule of Drama: Most of the Pashto is untranslated, as Luttrell didn't know it. However, when he's about to be executed by the Taliban and one of the Pashtun invokes Sacred Hospitality to keep him alive, we're briefly given subtitles so that the Taliban not executing him would be reasonable and not seem like a Deus ex Machina.
  • Sacred Hospitality: The reason why Marcus is being helped. To the point where the locals would rather fight to defend him, on the ground of how sacred the hospitality is, than simply let him be captured and executed. He never quite can wrap his head around to why anyone would do such a thing.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Taylor Kitsch gets one in the beginning of the film.
    • Played for drama when Marcus is undressed later on to be put him into clean, less conspicuous clothes, and all the multiple wounds he had taken already are being shown up-close.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: In the film, Shane Patton, the young and eager SEAL newbie, is finally flown in to aid our heroes only to be immediately killed by an RPG.
  • Shout-Out: Patton does the Napoleon dance as part of his hazing ritual.
  • Single Tear: Pain-induced.
  • Sole Survivor: Unsuprisingly, Luttrell ends up as the only survivor of SEAL team 10.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Once the whole operation goes sideway, Murphy and Luttrell have a semi-serious exchange they now gonna have easier time killing their targets, given they are surrounded and probably won't make it alive anyway. It very quickly stops being funny.
    • Marcus is eventually desperate enough to keep carrying a grenade just to make it clear, despite the Language Barrier, that he doesn't trust the people around him, even if they seem to be helpful.
  • Training Montage: The film's opening is a montage of real-life SEALs training. And not even the combat or survival training itself, just the Hell Week portion in which candidates are wet, sandy, sleep-deprived, and hypothermic (San Diego winters may be relatively mild, but the water gets cold) for eight days straight, in which most quit voluntarily. Despite it being only a few minutes long, it's more than enough to show how SEALs get to be such badasses.
  • Values Dissonance: Invoked. Luttrell is a conservative Christian from Texas who has effectively no common ground with the equally conservative Muslim Pashtun. Still, he admires their courage and commitment to their idea of honor, and when he describes the the Pashtun attitude towards women, he admits that while their extreme views "may not work for downtown Dallas," it seemed to work well enough for them.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: In the end, the Taliban that does find Luttrell starts to beat and toss him around, instead of simply putting few bullets into him.