When the Lone Survivor movie came out, I read up on Operation Red Wings, but I only just got around to watching the movie.
The original plan kicked off with a six-man team of Marine Scout Snipers walking in under cover of darkness, but, because SOF air elements were going to be involved in later stages, that turned into a four-man team of SEALs inserting by helicopter — something the original planners thought would compromise the mission by revealing coalition presence in this area.
The movie depicts all the SEALs as fully kitted out and visibly encumbered, but they’re not wearing helmets, and it’s not clear that they’re wearing body armor, either. Two are armed with suppressed sniper rifles, while the other two have carbines with grenade launchers.
They make their way to a decent vantage point from which they can spot and indentify their (surveillance) target, Ahmad Shah, and his surprisingly large “army” of fighters.
They’re just out of rifle range and aren’t on a mission to take out Shah themselves. One of the spotters asks, “You make that shot?” and the sniper replies, “Negative. Wouldn’t have authority anyway.”
(I couldn’t help but wonder, what could four designated marksmen, all armed with higher-caliber semi-auto rifles, do to a few dozen insurgents caught in the open like that, before they could respond?)
In the mountainous, wooded terrain, the SEALs have “comms” problems and can’t report back their findings, call in support, or request an extraction — but they came expecting comms problems, so they don’t panic. On the other hand, they don’t seem to have a solid plan for handling the local situation without support.
In particular, they don’t seem to have a solid plan for handling a few locals stumbling upon their position. No one on the team speaks the local language, and no one has a plan for dealing with semi-hostile locals. When you don’t have a plan, you don’t make good decisions. I’m not sure what a good decision would have been, but both shooting the locals and letting them go have obvious downsides. I suppose they didn’t bring zip-ties? Paracord? A few extra hours could have made a big difference. Letting the enemy know you’re there, and that there are only four of you, seems like something you should put off as long as possible.
By the time the pursuers catch up to them, the SEALs are deep in rough, wooded terrain — where they do not have clear lines of sight for long-range shots.
One thing the movie drives home is just how physical modern combat can be. The SEALs take a beating from scrambling through the rocky, wooded terrain, take some terrible falls, and then, on top of that, get cut to pieces by fragments from RPGs, mortar bombs, ricochets, etc. And then they actually get shot. The through-and-through shots to the arms and legs don’t seem to slow them down much, but it all adds up.
If the film starts to feel more “Hollywood” by the end, that’s because it diverges from the book — and reality.
If you “enjoyed” Black Hawk Down, you should see Lone Survivor, too.