I was a combat soldier in the Vietnam conflict. The first thing that comes to my mind watching this film was the equipment used by modern soldiers. In Vietnam we had the clothes on our back, just underwear and shirt, pants, boots, and our weapon. Some soldiers wore "flack vests" but where I served with a small unit in the jungles of the south, I never saw that. It was just your weapon and the clothes on your back. As to the story, it raises from the very beginning all sorts of moral questions. The film opens with actual footage of the over the top training and stress imposed on elite fighting units such as the Navy Seals. We see signs right from the beginning of the film that such severe and brutal training regimens set up a trauma and stress situation inside the emotions and lives of soldiers. There is a critical point in the film where the choice to kill "innocent" people or not to kill them changes everything that happens later. A lot of people will argue about what the choice should have been, and how it might have changed the soldiers chances of survival. That moment is a key to understanding what comes after in the film.
Field Command Incompetence. Another issue defined, if not focused upon directly, is how often the field command, Colonels and up, what are called "field" officers, seem to be incompetent, arrogant and often ineffective. Recent published studies of the history of military service of American Generals, for example, show us that the field commanders of armies on the ground is often a tragic disaster.
Emotions. Like many who watched this film, I found the long combat sequence very riveting and yet repulsive, in that they are hard to watch. There are several sequences that caused me to have a strong emotional reaction and I had a lot of tears on my face by the time it was over. There is a point in the film where we see a photo of the soldier who survived (Whalberg's character) with the Afghanistan man who gave him "hospitality" and saved his life at a great cost to his village. It is very well acted by an very talented Middle eastern actor. It is very easy in this film to become angry about the bad people that are represented by the Taliban fighters. It is easy, honestly, to just become very angry about all Muslims everywhere in a film like this. Suddenly, right in the middle of this intensity of revulsion towards "terrorists" there is an incredible emergence of human dignity, beauty, that lifts the film upwards, that changes the whole narrative of the film from soldiers captured inside a desperate fight to stay alive, toward the greatest attributes of human society; that of respect and refuge, of personal honor and dignity even in the face of the most terrible events.
The film was executive produced by Whalberg, who also stars as the "Lone Survivor", and you can see in his performance and from the credits that roll at the end of the film, that he was very invested in this story. While it is a sort of "classic" Hollywood soldier story, the film has many surprises. It is incredibly effective at showing us, using dramatic events, the stress and trauma a modern soldier fighting the "war on terror" endures over a short period of time in their lives, one that leads to suicides and many other problems for our returning veterans; not to mention the villages and lives changed forever in Afghanistan and the other locations where this kind of warfare continues to this day. I think this film does a much better job at showing this dangerous stress than most other films; but this also makes the film hard to watch. This is a very mature film, very violent. The violence is showed inside of an honest context, but viewers should be prepared for a highly emotional and violent film experience.