Based on actual events, the film follows a foursome of Navy SEALs as they take on their latest mission: to locate a Taliban leader in a remote Afghan village. The mission entails hiking along the backside of a mountain up to the peak where they can look down on the village and see if Shah, their terrorist target, is there. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) leads the team consisting of Danny Dietz (Emilie Hirsch), Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) and Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg.) Getting to the peak of the mountain is no problem, but their view isn’t the best so they go to a nearby peak, where they confirm Shah’s position, but they’re plagued by radio and communication problems. And then a trio of villagers and their goats stumble upon on the Americans. The SEALs face a decision: Do they let the villagers go? Leave them tied up and flee? Or kill them? Murphy decides that they’ll let them go free and will retreat back from the botched mission. But the villagers are much faster on their feet and get down a lot faster than the SEALs can get away. The Americans soon find themselves ambushed, but without hesitation try to fight their way out despite being massively outnumbered. How are they — or at least Luttrell — able to get out of this?
Director / Writer Peter Berg does an excellent job of recreating the dramatic shootout and ambush. It’s tense, suspenseful and feels very real. But when you barely know the characters other than seemingly insignificant details – Murphy’s fiance wants an Arabian Stallion, Dietz’s wife wants his opinion on backsplash tiles for their kitchen remodel, an Axelson really loves his wife – you’re not as emotionally connected to the characters as you should be. Sure you see more into the characters when they face adversity or debate what to do with the villagers, but really you don’t know much about these guys other than their names. The talented young cast, including Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch are essentially wasted as they become nothing more than guys shooting guns for the majority of the movie. And speaking of that debate, the final decision to set the villagers free is so obviously a bad decision that it’s no wonder that the trailers edit out the smart choice — to leave the villagers tied up and run. Yes, they say the villagers (which includes a couple of kids) could die from wolves or from the cold, but why not have three of them get a head start and then have the fourth wait around to set the villagers free? Again, with so little insight to the characters we lose sympathy for them when they make a clearly bad decision. Instead the movie seems to focus more on these nondescript men’s bravery, patriotism and sacrifice, with music that sounds a lot like it’s from Friday Night Lights (the show), it at times feels like a recruiting video — especially with the abrupt ending.