Lone Survivor: A Christian reflection on the film

by J.W. Wartick

I watched Lone Survivor recently with a friend. I’m a fan of war movies (my favorites being “Patton,” “Midway,” and “Gettysburg”), so I figured I’d probably enjoy this one. I was surprised at points at the depth of the film’s narrative. Here, I will be commenting on the content on the film; not on the true story itself or any side-stories that came off of it. There will, of course, be SPOILERS for the movie in what follows. I will not be summarizing the plot, which may easily be found here.

The Trilemma

Early in the film, the SEALs encounter a situation which brings them to a trilemma: local goat herders compromise their mission security. They are left with three options: they may let the herders go and run for the hills themselves, knowing that a huge number of hostiles will be pursuing them; they may tie the herders up, hoping that they would be found before they died from local predators or cold; or they could terminate the prisoners. The latter two would violate the rules of war, but the soldiers themselves had little chance of surviving with the first option.

Their decision is eventually made after some tense debate; they free the prisoners and flee to try to call for an extract. The SEALs clearly did the right thing in this situation, not purely from a legal perspective but from an

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ethical perspective as well. The murder of innocents to preserve one’s own safety is not justified. However, the situation also illustrated the intense complexity of the situation of such a war. It also illustrated the very human emotional struggle we would go through in a similar situation: how would you deal with the trilemma? Can you answer it honestly that you would put your own life in extreme peril? Tough questions.

Kill Everything that Moves?

I was a bit worried that the film might serve to portray a simplistic good/bad guy dichotomy in which anyone who looked remotely Arabic was painted as a villain and everyone that moved was to be killed. That was not at all the case. Although it is clear that the Taliban are the “bad guys” in this film, Marcus Luttrell, the “lone survivor,” is ultimately saved by a local who was following Pashtun codes which grant protection for those in need.

There is thus illustrated in the film a greater range of rightness and wrongness than simply good/bad guy…

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