Lone Survivor: Does the movie do the story justice?

Autumn R.

Staff Writer

The film Lone Survivor was released this past Christmas Day. Before Lone Survivor was developed into a film, the book, written by “lone survivor” Marcus Luttrell, was on the New York Time’s bestsellers list. Lone Survivor is a true story based upon a heart-wrenching tragedy that happened to the United States Navy Seals when presented the mission of facing al-Qaeda. Many people within the United States read the novel, but the film release spread the word about the story even further and faster than expected due to more people being aware because of commercials. Lone Survivor reveals the story behind the tragedy the United States Navy SEALs faced, but does the film do it justice?

Lone-Survivor 2Marcus Luttrell, Michael Patrick Murphy, Matthew Axleson, and Danny Dietz – these four names sound pretty normal, right? Wrong. These four US Navy SEALs departed in Afghanistan from the helicopters on a crystal clear night in July of 2005. They were to move on foot across the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a scouting mission. The task given to these four men was to spy on a rumored leader of the al-Qaeda thought to be closely tied to Bin Laden. The men found a secure hiding spot with a gun range that was doable. Like all movies based on real events, some minor parts are added to enhance the movie. In the film the SEALs were scouting when two boys and an old man, acting as spies from al-Qaeda, came up the mountain with goats. In real life, there was only one boy, a minor change. In the film, once the members of al-Qaeda captured the men, they were all bickering as to what to do with them. Killing them, letting them go, or holding them hostage was the topic of debate. Senior Maura Greene said, “This part of the movie made me mad. I really just wanted them to kill the spies, but I guess it was the right thing to do.” In real life there was no debate; Murphy made that decision because he was the commander. His choice was based on one of the spies being a teenager, and he could not live with himself if he killed them for no reason. It was not a vote. The men let the hostages go and ran as far up the mountain as possible to give them time to get ready to fight once the men alerted the leaders of the Taliban. After that scene, and in real life, is when events started turning for the worst for these four men.

It took the men an hour and a half to get up the mountain and prepare for their ambush. Obviously in the film it did not show the hour and a half hike, but by the end of the hiking scene, the audience could tell the SEALs were tired, given the essence of a long hike. The Taliban in both versions of the story made it up the mountain in a very short period of time, leaving the men very little time to prepare for the ambush. The landscape was very mountainous and dry, there were not a lot of hiding spots, and running was difficult because the men were not used to the landscape. The discussion of how many people attacked the SEALs is still up for debate. Corpsman Luttrel, the lone survivor, says there were anywhere between 50-80 killed, the film says 200, and leaders of the SEALs say 40-50. No one will ever truly know the real number.

Jumping off cliffs and rolling down treacherous mountainsides seems a little bit of Hollywood fiction to most, but it was not. Senior Lauren Nielly comments, “I closed my eyes for most of the parts when they jumped off the cliffs. It looked so painful, and it was really graphic.” If the men were in a tight position and had guns pointed at them at all spots, they jumped off a cliff, literally. There was no other route to escape. Broken bones, gashes, swelling, and shock were all outcomes of the four men jumping. This made them disoriented and even more exhausted. The death order of the men in the movie was factual too. The first to die out of the four men was Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, age 25; he was shot multiple times and was in so much shock that he could no longer carry on. Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson, age 29, was the second to die. He risked his life trying to get a signal out to the headquarters to get help; he was shot multiple times in the back when he reached a high enough point to get a signal. The third to die was Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, age 29. He had reached his limit with getting shot and could no longer walk whatsoever and was out of ammunition when he was shot Luttrell did in fact run from what was left of the enemy, and an Afghani man found him in a small creek and told him to get up and that he would take him to safety. The man, Mohammed Gulab, took him into his village to bandage him up and to give him food and water. It did not take long for the Taliban to find Luttrell, but they fought, and he stayed alive. Their village appreciated the Americans for protecting and aiding their country. Even though the fight was brutal, no one was killed. The Taliban retreated because Mohammed held the leader at gun point, and he backed down. The son of Mohammed, who appeared in the film to enhance the emotional qualities, did not truly exist in real life. Luttrell was protected for a number of hours, as opposed to days in the movie, before the US army came to rescue him. He was rescued due to him having a signal and being able to contact the headquarters. He was then flown out by a helicopter.

The movie dramatized the injuries of Luttrell. He was severely injured and had several gunshot wounds, but he was not near death. The doctors did not have to revive him or anything of that extent, but he was in severe shock and had to stay hospitalized for a while. Luttrell and Gulab still are in contact with one another and even met a few years after the tragedy. Luttrel was awarded honors and a purple heart for the tragedy. Overall, the movie did the real story justice. The movie creators never took anything away or misinterpreted what happened to the men. It brought tears to people’s faces across the country and opened the eyes of what the US military does for this country.


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