Film Review: ‘Murph: The Protector’

'Murph: The Protector' Review

Talking-heads docu on Medal of Honor winner Michael Murphy lacks clarity of detail, but still packs an emotional puch.

The serviceable documentary “Murph: The Protector” could hardly fail to be an emotionally potent experience. It’s an account of the sacrifice of Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy, the Medal of Honor winner who exposed himself to enemy fire in 2005 in order to call for backup during the fateful Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan. Director-producer Scott Mactavish uses straightforward talking-head interviews with family members and friends to evoke the extraordinary focus and courage Murphy seems to have been born with. Having recently received an Oscar-qualifying berth on single New York and Los Angeles screens, “Murph” should have a solid ancillary run as a complement to Peter Berg’s star-studded dramatic version of the Red Wings op, “Lone Survivor” (with Taylor Kitsch as Murphy), which Universal opens Dec. 27.

A few homemovie clips of Murphy’s high-school sports triumphs, and an array of snapshots, serve as illustrations. The film is of inconsistent visual and sound quality, and the interviews are at times redundant, going back over events from multiple points of view. But it would be churlish to complain too much about technical shortcomings when the interview at hand is a mother describing her feelings on the day four men in uniform knocked on the door of the Murphy family home.

A more serious limitation is a lack of detail about the mission Murphy and his fellow SEALs were pursuing. We’re told here only that Murph and three others were ordered to get “eyes on” an anti-coalition enclave in an isolated mountainous area. Online sources suggest that Red Wings’ objective was “the disruption of Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) activity in the region,” an activity more aggressive than a recon mission alone. It is clear, in any event, that the SEALs were spotted and surrounded by a superior force, and that Murphy had to leave the shelter of the rocks in order to get a clear enough radio signal to send out a distress call.

Marcus Luttrell, the only one of the four to make it out alive (and whose book, co-authored with Patrick Robinson, served as the basis for “Lone Survivor”) is mentioned in George W. Bush’s 2007 Medal of Honor speech about Murphy, which is shown here. But, even though he is described as one of Murphy’s closest friends, the only living eyewitness to Operation Red Wings does not appear in this docu. And no wonder, given that Murphy’s father has been quoted as saying that the book dishonors his son’s memory. At issue is a passage suggesting that team leader Murphy considered executing some unarmed civilians who stumbled upon the SEAL camp, and that he put the suggestion to a vote. There is no mention of this dispute in “Murph: The Protector.”

Film Review: 'Murph: The Protector'

Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Oct. 2, 2013.  Running time: 79 MIN.


(Documentary) An Anchor Bay Entertainment release of a Mactavish Pictures/Killcliff/Anchor Bay Entertainment production. Produced by Scott Mactavish. Co-Producer, Gary Williams. Executive producers, Joel Shapiro, Chris Carlton, Todd Ehrlich.


Directed, written by Scott Mactavish.  Camera (color, HD), Todd Free; editor, Free; music, Chris Irwin, Jeff Widenhofer.


John McElhone, Michael P. Murphy, Maureen Murphy, Hector Velez Jr., Jeff Widenhofer.

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  1. Joseph Biehn says:

    I would agree that the scene where they all debate/argue what to do w/the unarmed locals should NEVER have been put in there as it could cause serious problems w/family & friends. I believe damn near 100% the reason it was in the movie was to show how great of a soldier & a man he was by choosing not to kill them. In doing so, it gave us the viewers to think &/or believe that there are even more great things about Lt. Murphy. Also, those “unarmed civilians” were from the village they were doing recon on & it was clearly sheltering Taliban, including a high profile target. So those ” unarmed civilians” were absolutely Taliban just not armed. I believe 100% if that really did happen, they would w/out a doubt nuetralize that threat by killing them or very least, tie them up. What’s heartbreaking is they knew exactly what was going to happen by freeing them. It was 4 against at least 30 Taliban which gives them pretty much a single digit percentage of surviving. I can honestly say that ANYONE/EVERYONE in that situation would w/out second thought kill or tie them up. It’s either our lives or their lives so we obviously choose our own lives & the lives of our brothers & sisters over them. Not a soul would disagree by choosing to eliminate the potential threat & would NEVER be charged/punished under Uniform Code Of Military Justice(UCMJ)! I’m sure there are more than there should be American civilians who would completely disagree to eliminating those locals even if they knew they were Taliban or supporters all because they were unarmed. Reason I said that is because the fuckers who would disagree completely have no fucking idea what it’s like going to war & be in actual combat! So, how about those type of shitty Americans stop speaking of what they do not know at all! I can easily bet all that I have that if these shitbags were to experience combat it would pretty quick & in a hurry get them to realize that their opinions, views, & beliefs on what it’s like to be in combat(life or death) during any war were absolutely wrong in every way!

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