HARPER: A coordinated media assault on a pro-military film

“Lone Survivor,” a movie about a failed Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan, has reopened the debate between the supporters of a strong U.S. military and its detractors, specifically those in the media.

The movie has received some scathing reviews that go far beyond what critics normally hand out, with descriptions far worse than a simple thumbs-down. And those critics have attracted their own critics, including conservative talk show host Glenn Beck.


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The movie is based on book about a 2005 mission to capture or to kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Three of the four SEALs died in a battle with Taliban fighters, and 16 others were killed in a helicopter crash while trying to rescue the team. Marcus Luttrell, the co-author of the book, was the lone survivor.

Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com called “Lone Survivor” a “jingoistic, pornographic work of war propaganda.” The film, directed by Peter Berg of “Battleship” and “Friday Night Lights” fame, is “trying to reclaim the discredited realm of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts as a zone for macho tragic fantasy, for the dream of American greatness,” he added.

Richard Corliss of Time chimed in, “That these events actually happened doesn’t necessarily make it plausible or powerful in a movie, or keep it from seeming like convenient propaganda.”

Amy Nicholson, the chief film critic for LA Weekly, went even further, writing that the main message of the film is: “Brown people bad, American people good.” Moreover, she criticized the author for not writing the book alone, alleging the U.S. Navy hired British novelist Patrick Robinson to write the account while Mr. Luttrell served in Iraq. She also claimed the book had increased the actual size of the Taliban force from 10 to 200.

Mr. Beck exploded on his program, calling Ms. Nicholson a “vile, repugnant and ignorant liar.” He offered to fly her first class to his Dallas studio to personally read her review to his friend, Mr. Luttrell. So far, the film critic has stated she was criticizing the film, not the SEALs.

Mr. Luttrell has had his own dust-ups with the media. In an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, the former Navy SEAL took offense when the reporter described the mission as “hopeless” and “senseless.”


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“I don’t know what part of the film you were watching, but hopelessness never really came into it,” Mr. Luttrell replied. “We never felt like we were hopelessly lost or anything like that. We never gave up. We never felt like we were losing until we were actually dead.”

The film focuses on heroism and how soldiers fight as the proverbial band of brothers. Most people, including many of the media, don’t understand that. I never served in the military, but I have had the privilege of working with the U.S. military on many occasions.

These film critics hide behind their analysis of “Lone Survivor” when, in fact, they simply want to criticize American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would prefer they keep their politics out of their movie reviews.

Fortunately, not many people are paying attention to these critics. Although the film is unlikely to win the two minor Academy Awards for which it is nominated because of its alleged lack of political correctness, “Lone Survivor” topped the box-office charts in its first week and came in second the next. So far, the film has earned more than $77 million — an impressive two-week take for a movie that cost $40 million to make.

Christopher Harper is a professor at Temple University. He worked for more than 20 years at The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20.” He can be contacted at charper@washingtontimes.com. Twitter: @charper51.

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