Review: Patriotism, pashtunwali in 'Lone Survivor'

Posted at 01/12/14 1:16 PM

Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "Lone Survivor"

The operation of Navy Seals in Taliban country in the mountains of Afghanistan go awry. Their supposedly covert intelligence operation becomes an all-out gunfight. The title already tells us quite obviously what the outcome will be. There is only one lone survivor.

However, before it reaches that inevitable conclusion, we will be brought right in the heat of the blazing action where bullets were flying and bombs were exploding. You will definitely flinch as director Peter Berg does not shirk from showing in stark graphic close-ups how bullets and shrapnel hit their targets, spilling not only blood and guts, but ultimately also causing cruel deaths.

We will also bear witness to a 2,000-year old code of honor among Afghan villagers called pashtunwali where they undertake the responsibility of protecting an individual at all costs. This is something new I have never known before. It is indeed heartening to learn about this noble tradition that reasserts our hope in humanity in the face of seemingly mindless violence of warfare.

Honor and valor comes in different forms from different people. We see a lot of it here in "Lone Survivor." The Seals (played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch) show it as they stand their ground against all odds in the name of duty for their country. The Afghan villagers (played by Ali Suliman and Rohan Chand) show it much better in their efforts to help a person in dire need, even if he was a stranger whom they were conditioned to believe to be their enemy.

Maybe the only drawback about this film is that we do not really make any personal connection if any individual Seal, even the titular lone survivor. We will not really know anything much about the person behind the soldier. We just see all of them here as generic courageous soldiers who are ready to die for country, symbolizing ALL American military men. You cannot fault the filmmakers for their desire to revel in their nationalistic pride.

You will really get into the horrific experience of being in the battle zone in this film. It will not only show tactical dilemmas but moral decision-making as well. This film will make you admire and appreciate these brave men who do their unenviable duties out of sheer patriotism, not only Americans but soldiers of every nation.

This is a brutally frank war movie, definitely not for the faint at heart. 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."