Mark Wahlberg has made a number of memorable movies over his impressive career. From Boogie Nights to Planet of the Apes to The Departed to The Other Guys, Wahlberg has entertained audiences in all genres of film. He has also starred in a couple of war films, one that is seeing a resurgence by climbing the Amazon Prime chart, as it is now the #9 most-watched movie on the US streaming service.
Lone Survivor is that movie. The Mark Wahlberg movie is based on the 2007 nonfiction novel, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, by Marcus Luttrell recounting the failed United States Navy SEALs mission, Operation Red Wings.
The movie has Mark Wahlberg playing Luttrell, who at the time was a combat medic and sniper in the US Navy. In 2005, Ahmad Shah is a Taliban leader who was responsible for killing over twenty United States Marines as well as refugees and villagers who had been helping the American forces. In response to this, a Navy SEALs team was put together as a counter-mission to go in and capture Shah. Part of the mission had Luttrell and three other SEALs, team leader Michael Murphy (played by Taylor Kitsch), Matthew Axelson (played by Ben Foster), and Danny Dietz (played by Emile Hirsch), going in to locate Shah.
Once together, the team is dropped into the Hindu Kush region in the mountains of Afghanistan. As the four-man squad makes their way through the mountains, they are accidentally discovered by a group of goat herders, which included a young boy. The four detain the goat herders, knowing that if they release them, that the herders will most likely go back to their village and report the SEALs whereabouts to the Taliban. So, Murphy has the group take a vote – kill the herders and continue on with their mission or abandon the mission. They eventually decide to let the herders go and abandon the mission. As they are making their way back out, they encounter a large group of Taliban.
A firefight ensues with the SEALs taking out a number of Taliban but sustaining wounds themselves. They find themselves trapped in a ravine where an almost unconscious Dietz begins to yells questions toward Lattrell, giving away their position. Murphy and Axelson appear to have made their escape but Luttrell stays behind in an attempt to carry Dietz to safety. He is unsuccessful when Dietz is shot again, knocking Luttrell off a cliff. Fatally wounded, Dietz remains at the top of the cliff where he perishes.
Murphy and Axelson then find Luttrell. Murphy then tries to get back to the top of the cliff under Axelson and Luttrell’s cover fire so he can attempt to get a radio signal for help. He is able to reach the top and get off his SOS before he is killed.
When the calvary arrives, it too finds itself under heavy fire. One of the Chinook helicopters carrying eight Navy SEALs and eight Special Operations aviators is shot down, killing all on board. The second helicopter is forced back, leaving Luttrell and Axelson on their own to survive. Sadly, only one does as Axelson is killed fighting off the remaining Taliban.
Luttrell is dialed up for death when the Taliban sees him, firing a grenade in his direction. The blast knocks him to the bottom of a rock crevice, where Luttrell is able to hide and eventually escape. Eventually, he is found and nursed back to health by a Pashtun villager named Mohammad Gulab, who becomes famous in his own right for helping an American soldier.
Lone Survivor was written and directed by Peter Berg, who also went on to write and direct Mark Wahlberg in Patriot’s Day about the Boston Marathon bomber. When the story was brought to Berg’s attention, he was immediately intrigued. Berg brought the real Luttrell to his home for a month while writing the script, going over every detail of the failed mission. Berg also eventually was allowed to be embedded with a Navy SEAL team to help round out the realism.
Mark Wahlberg was the first actor to take on a role in the film. He chose to not read Luttrell’s book but instead gain everything he could from Berg’s script. His reasoning was that he didn’t want to have any arguments over what was in the book and not in the script. “The problem when adapting a piece of material like that is that you always feel like something is missing”, he explained via We Got This Covered. “I wanted to come at it from this perspective.”
The Mark Wahlberg movie was met favorably, though there were quite a few who jumped on it negatively for some historical inaccuracies. The main complaint was the number of Taliban the four Navy SEALs went up against. In Luttrell’s after-action report, he says they were attacked by 20-35 Taliban while his book notes there were in upwards of 200. Other numbers were 20-30, 40-50 and one report said there were over 50 Taliban. These numbers came from various eyewitness reports and investigations done after the fact.
Berg was able to recreate the tragic mission for $40 and the Mark Wahlberg-led movie brought in $155 million at the box office. Lone Survivor was just one of many Mark Wahlberg films that were high-action and intense. We Own the Night, Max Payne, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Transformers: The Last Knight, as well as Mile 22 and Spenser Confidential are just a small sample of Wahlberg’s proclivity towards the action thriller. Don’t kid yourself though if you think he is a one-trick pony. Wahlberg has also been in his fair share of comedies with Ted, Ted 2, Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2, and The Other Guys as part of his comedic roster.
Up next for Mark Wahlberg is the feature film adaptation of the hit video game Uncharted. He is also in the process of filming Arthur the King and is then slated to film The Six Billion Dollar Man, which is based on the ‘70s hit series The Six Million Dollar Man.