by Brad Nelson 1/13/14
Remember those days when you could just blast your way through the Germans and take names later? Well, those days are obviously over.
Mark Wahlberg heads a non-star cast of Navy Seals who are on scout duty to set up the killing or capture of a couple of top-level Taliban guys. This is based on a true story. And no disrespect to the brave men involved, but if this is how our best-trained people operate, we’re in big trouble.
Wahlberg and three other members of SEAL Team 10 take a chopper into the mountains of Afghanistan and land as an advance reconnaissance party to scope out the territory. After doing some reconnaissance work on a hill overlooking a village, they dig in (well, really, they just hide under some tree branches) and wait.
Meanwhile, something comes along that throws these four hardened professionals into a tizzy: A heard of goats and its three shepherds. By the reaction of the SEAL members, you would have thought that they had missed all that rugged training that is shown at the beginning of the film. They are flustered and don’t know what to do. God help them if it was actually the Taliban and not a herd of goats they had come across.
Three of the SEALS act like a group of scared schoolgirls for a few moments until the officer in charge steps in and makes a decision (which you would have thought would have been automatic, coming across civilians being one of the contingencies this well-trained group would have planned for).
And from there the mistakes just avalanche. Because they had been discovered, the officer decides to scrub the mission. Fine. But instead of shooting the three Afghani civilians, tying them up in place or, better yet, taking them with them to the extraction point and then letting them go at the last minute (holding to the American ideal of not killing civilians), these highly-trained SEALS let them go where they are so that they can immediately run to the Taliban.
And thus the chase ensues and it is then just a matter of the SEALS being overcome by overwhelming forces. The movie tries to stitch a “brothers in arms” theme into this as they bravely fall, one by one. But it seems tacked-on. And why in hell the SEALS would not take and try to hold the high ground (or quietly scoot out) when they ran up against superior forces, I don’t know. I hope the book and this movie are different things. The way the SEALS conducted the battle seemed sloppy, haphazard, and unprofessional.
Nor did any of the other operations surrounding the SEALS mission seem at all professional. Their radios don’t work. And when the man-on-the-ground calls the base on an unsecured backup phone to ask for support (because the satellite phone isn’t working), a dumb-ass SEAL on the other end of the line wastes precious time while deciding whether or not to wake up the Colonel.
And when they needed Apache helicopters for search and rescue, they are not available, so they send in a couple of those bigger transport choppers without escort. One of them is promptly shot down. There seemed to be nothing about this mission that was particularly well-planned. And for whatever reason, they take along no medical supplies so they are reduced to sticking dirt into their wounds. Even Obamacare is probably better than this.
This is clearly situation normal, all fouled up. And that’s not to take anything away from the bravery of the SEALS. But they seemed (at least in the movie) more brawn than brains.
Once we get past the “Band of Brothers” stage of the movie, then we come to the “All Muslims aren’t bad” part of the film. Wahlberg (eventually the “lone survivor”) makes his way to the outskirts of a village and is helped by one of the villagers. (And why this villager didn’t shoot the two Taliban guys who were threatening them, I don’t know. Those Taliban guys went back and brought all their forces down on the village and killed many of them.)
Eventually, through the actions of this villager, Wahlberg is saved. Okay, I get it. All Muslims aren’t bad. And if this is based upon a real story, what are you going to do? But, again, this part of the movie felt tacked on.
And I’ve never been in combat, so forgive my ignorance. But is it standard operating procedure (particularly amongst the Taliban) to stand up tall and make yourself a big target while engaging in gunfire? Was the prone position outlawed by the Geneva Convention? Maybe this is how it is in realilty. But it seems unreal. The Mel Gibson war movie, We Were Soldiers, seems to excel at realism. But this one doesn’t.
More tragic still is that this advance party of SEALS could have taken out the two people they were looking for right at the start of their mission. But they had orders not to fire. That was somebody else’s job.
Yes, we owe a lot to these heroes who risk their lives and endure great hardship in order to keep us safe. But don’t you miss those days when heroes were defined by who they did kill instead of who they didn’t? The rules of engagement for these guys is a joke. We’re not playing to win. Our enemies, however, are. This movie may please simply because it is full of gunfire. But otherwise it’s a bit of a dud. • (1407 views)