The story of Lt. Michael P. Murphy’s life doesn’t need to be hyped, and Murph: The Protector does a good job of staying out of its way. The documentary, which debuts this weekend, is a straightforward look at the life of an American hero, filled with interviews with family members and friends, and illustrated with photos and videos from his all-too-brief life.
Murphy, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2007, was the sort of kid who would stand up to bullies in high school or put the needs of teammates ahead of self-interest. He loved helping others, working as a lifeguard growing up and giving up his bedroom when a trio of female cousins with nowhere else to go moved into his home.
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Murph: The Protector shows Murphy as a well-rounded, all-American type. He loved football and baseball (but not soccer). He read whatever he could get his hands on.
After graduating from Penn State, Murphy turned down the chance to attend law school and instead decided to become a Navy SEAL. It’s the sort of thing that many people say and few people achieve. Murphy was one of the few. "He literally would do sit-ups until he puked," says one of his friends, laughing at the fact that Murphy would become angry with himself for his own weakness.
Murphy’s family found his career choice controversial at first. "I told him I’d disown him if he went into the military," his father Dan, who received a Purple Heart in Vietnam, tells the camera. His mother begged him to reconsider until he convinced her that this was what he needed to do.
Murph: The Protector is more interested in Murphy the man than Murphy the warrior. His military exploits are not discussed in great detail. There’s little to say in part because he talked about his deeds so little: Anytime he was home, friends say, Murphy would gloss over his exploits in favor of hearing what they were up to.
A simple voiceover describes the heroic actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The Navy has a full recap of his bravery here, but the short version is inspiring by itself. After he and three fellow SEALs came under heavy enemy fire while on a patrol in Afghanistan, Murphy left cover in an effort to rescue two seriously injured squad-mates. In the course of making a call to headquarters that relayed crucial information about the quartet’s location and about the size of the enemy forces they were facing, and ultimately saved the life of another SEAL, Murphy was killed.
The four SEALs killed an estimated 35 Taliban fighters.
Accompanying the interviews with friends and family are interviews with the first recipient of a scholarship set up in Murphy’s favor. A portion of the proceeds from the film will go to benefit the LT Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation.
As part of a deal that secured the documentary distribution, the film is playing exclusively in Regal Cinemas at a limited number of locations. If the box office numbers are strong enough this weekend, this moving story of heroism and sacrifice will expand to more screens, according to a FAQ on the film’s website.