Lone Survivor is a 2013 American biographical war film based on the eponymous 2007 nonfiction book by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson. Set during the war in Afghanistan, it dramatizes the unsuccessful United States Navy SEALs counter-insurgent mission Operation Red Wings, during which a four-man SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team was given the task of tracking down the Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The film was written and directed by Peter Berg and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana.
Upon first learning of the book in 2007, Berg arranged several meetings with Luttrell to discuss adapting the book to film. Universal Pictures acquired the film rights in August 2007, after bidding against other major studios. In re-enacting events, Berg drew much of his screenplay from Luttrell’s eyewitness accounts in the book, as well as autopsy and incident reports related to the mission. After directing Battleship (2012) for Universal, Berg resumed working on Lone Survivor. Principal photography began in October 2012 and concluded in November, after 42 days. Filming took place on location in New Mexico, using digital cinematography. Luttrell and several other Navy SEAL veterans acted as technical advisors, while multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces aided the production. Two companies, Industrial Light & Magic and Image Engine, created the visual effects.
Lone Survivor opened in limited release in the United States on December 25, 2013, before opening across North America on January 10, 2014. It received generally positive reviews; critics praised Berg’s direction and realism, as well as the acting, story, visuals and battle sequences, though some criticism was directed at the film’s focus on action rather than characterization. It grossed over $154 million, of which $125 million was from North America. It was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2013 and received two Oscar nominations for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
Ahmad Shah, a local Taliban warlord in the Korangal Valley is identified as the person responsible for the deaths of several Marines, plus any villagers who are believed to have aided the American forces in Afghanistan. A Navy SEAL team is ordered to capture Ahmad, consisting of Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson, Danny Dietz as well as Marcus Luttrell.
Inserted overnight via helicopter, the four man team make their way toward Shah’s last known location. Due to the mountainous terrain the team are operating in, communications with J-Bad become difficult. Though the team identify Shah, they are discovered by local villagers; one of which is seen carrying a walkie-talkie. Believing that the villagers are Taliban sympathisers, the SEALs debate on either setting them free or killing them. Knowing the consequences that will happen to them should they kill innocent civilians, the team vote in favor of setting them free, Marcus dealing the deciding vote.