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Monday, January 27, 2014

MURPH: The Protector Blu-ray Review

The Film

June 28, 2005 was a devastating day for the United States' Special Operations forces in Afghanistan. As part of Operation Red Wings, a team of four Navy SEALs became embroiled in a mountainside fire fight with a sizeable enemy force while tracking a high ranking al Qaeda target. Attempting a rescue of the outnumbered SEALs, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter containing eight more SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing everyone on board. One member of the original SEAL team, Marcus Luttrell, survived the incident and was extracted days later during a second rescue operation.

MURPH: The Protector is a unique documentary, a moving tribute to the leader of that four-man SEAL team, Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy. During the fight, Lt. Murphy left the protective cover of the mountain rocks to find a better location from which to radio headquarters for help. Lt. Murphy was eventually able to make contact and relay the position of his team, but his heroic act of bravery also cost him his life. Lt. Murphy was shot in the back while making the call and later died during the 2-hour gunfight that ensued. Lt. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first ever given for combat in Afghanistan.
The events of that fateful day tell a gripping and harrowing tale but MURPH does not attempt to tell that story. Instead, MURPH focuses on the the man, the son, and the friend Lt. Murphy was, and the path he walked in life which would ultimately bring him to Afghanistan. Through a series of interviews with friends, family members, and others, MURPH paints a portrait of the brave and selfless soldier who ultimately had the courage to make that call.
It's worth noting that Marcus Luttrell's account of these events is the subject of his own book, Lone Survivor, recently adapted to film by Peter Berg. The film, also called Lone Survivor, is in theaters now. In the film, Lt. Murphy is portrayed by "Friday Night Lights" and John Carter star Taylor Kitsch.

The Picture

With a film like MURPH, it seems in some ways inappropriate to spend much time analyzing the disc's technical presentation. Suffice to say Anchor Bay gives this modest production a surprisingly polished high definition transfer and the numerous interviews look crisp and richly detailed. As interview-based documentaries go, MURPH looks great.

A nice touch is the way Lt. Murphy's childhood photos are handled in the film. The photos vary in quality but the manner in which they're presented on screen makes it evident that a great deal of care and thought went into preserving these precious memories. I suspect most viewers won't pay as close attention to these photos as I did, but I had my selfish reasons. Truth be told, I recognized several of the faces in those old photos because I had the pleasure of attending both middle school and high school with Lt. Murphy ("Mike" when I knew him). As a matter of fact, we graduated from high school together in 1994. But more on that in a minute.

The Sound

Not surprisingly, MURPH is largely dialogue-driven and the soundtrack is a simple, stereo affair. However, it should be noted that MURPH features some excellent, original music composed and performed by U.S. Navy veterans Chris Irwin and Jeff Widenhofer. The Celtic-infused mix complements the film wonderfully, paying homage to Lt. Murphy's Irish-American heritage. It's no wonder you can purchase the soundtrack separately; it's definitely worth a listen.

The Extras

This disc contains no bonus materials.

Final Thoughts

I mentioned earlier that I had the pleasure of graduating from high school with Lt. Murphy. I debated mentioning that fact in this review, as I didn't want to take any of the focus off of Mike, which he so rightly deserves. However, if you'll indulge me for a moment, I do think there's value in looking back at the Mike Murphy I knew in high school.

Mike and I were never close friends, but we were always friendly. And that right there is the point. In high school, many kids tend to travel in well-defined circles. Maybe you're on the football team, maybe you're in the band, maybe you're in the theater group. Whatever the case may be, the other folks in that group comprise your world and everyone else becomes something of an outsider. Mike was never like that - or at least, he never gave me that impression. He was one of those guys who could always spare a smile, regardless of who you were and which "circle" you belonged to.

As the father of a 10-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, I find myself spending an increasing amount of time thinking back to my days in high school. I think about the social pressures and relationship anxieties that come with being a teenager and what I can do to help prepare them for that. What can I do to help mold my son and daughter into the fine young adults they'll too soon become?

One thing I can do is provide strong role models for my children. In today's celebrity-obsessed culture, where kids chat endlessly about the latest act of idiocy from Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, it seems imperative that we take time to point out people who possess a strength of character and quality of behavior genuinely worthy of aspiration. Lt. Michael Murphy was one of those people. He is one of those role models.

MURPH is an emotional and loving tribute to an American hero and it serves as a stern reminder of the incredible sacrifices made every day by the men and women in our armed forces. I'm proud to have known Lt. Murphy for a while and I look forward to sharing his story with my children.

Greg Robinson
Patchogue-Medford High School
Class of 1994

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