Caitlin Rickard: The strive to survive

I know usually I’m a little more on the critically acclaimed side and a little less on the mainstream side, but for this movie I can make an exception.
Jan 22, 2014
Caitlin Rickard

I know usually I’m a little more on the critically acclaimed side and a little less on the mainstream side, but for this movie I can make an exception.

I recently saw Lone Survivor, and can I just say, wow.

I don’t dislike war films; I’m just more of a fan of the behind-the-scenes action and not so much the ear-ringing bells and whistles and explosions, if you will. This movie, however, is almost pure action from start to finish, but worth every minute. It’s in theatres now, and also worth every dollar.

Lone Survivor is based on Marcus Luttrell’s 2007 book by the same name. During the War in Afghanistan, it tells the story of the failed United States Navy SEALs mission Operation Red Wings, which Luttrell was a part of.

A lot of you may be familiar with the infamous and gut-wrenching story, but for those of you who aren’t, I’ll summarize a little history for you without spoiling too much (it’s called “Lone Survivor” for a reason, guys).

In June of 2005, Luttrell, along with three fellow SEALs, was a part of a four-man task team on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The four-man SEAL team was comprised of Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster).
Upon arrival to their deserted destination while tracking the Taliban leader, the four men cross paths with herders on the mountain in which they set up camp. After capturing them and tying up the herders, which consisted of men and teenage boys, the SEALs are then left with a task possibly harder than capturing their actual target.

After much discussion and a vote between the SEALs, they opt to let the unarmed herders go, knowing the decision would send the nearby Taliban quickly on their heels.

Luttrell wrote of the decision to release the herders in his book; “It was the stupidest, most southern-fried, lamebrained decision I ever made in my life. I must have been out of my mind. I had actually cast a vote which I knew could sign our death warrant.”

Without satellite and radio signal to reach base, the SEALs then set in for the long haul and prepared to fight to the death.

Taliban soldiers soon swept across the mountainside and easily outnumbered the four men, who jumped rocky ridgeways and rolled and bounded down cliffs to avoid the lateral attack. They were all shot, pinned, pushed, whipped and wounded in the process, but continued to fight against the common enemy and protect each other at all costs.

What I think people might not realize is the reality of the fight sequence in the movie. While usually a war scenario is far from what actually happened in real life, the battle in the movie almost mirrors Luttrell’s words and memories from his tell-all book. The scene on the mountain isn’t ‘Hollywooded up’ or made more dramatic or inspiring for the sake of storytelling. These things actually happened.

Murphy shockingly did sacrifice his life for his three fellow SEALs by climbing into the open and exposing himself to the Taliban in order to radio for reinforcements. A decision that left him, not shockingly, shredded to pieces by bullets.

Axelson and Dietz were both shot in the head and killed. 

Following Murphy’s courageous radio call to base, two helicopters flew to the scene to save the men, but one was immediately shot down by Taliban forces killing eight SEALs and eight Army Night stalkers.

With Luttrell all alone, he makes his way down the mountain and is soon rescued by a villager named Mohammed Gulab, who gave him food and shelter.

And when the Taliban came knocking on the village doors, the entire village protected Luttrell under an ancient moral code, Pashtunwali, which states they must feed and protect a wounded loner against his enemies.

Obviously Luttrell is rescued and lives to tell his story. He is still in contact with Gulab, the villager who saved his life.

I promise the movie will keep you intrigued and engaged from start to finish. It made me cry and cheer, but mostly it made me thankful.

If anything I think it’s a good reminder of things and people bigger than us. A story we might not be familiar with about a group we probably don’t know exists who fought, and continue to fight, tooth and nail to protect this country and its people. 

I think it’s important we all be reminded these people exist every now and then.

Caitlin Rickard is a staff writer with The Democrat. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.


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