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Sunday, May 25, 2014

MURPH: THE PROTECTOR -- DVD review by porfle

The importance of a life can be gauged by how deeply it affected others, and continues to do so.  We aren't even five minutes into the instantly-engaging documentary MURPH: THE PROTECTOR (2013) and we already get the impression of a life well lived. 

This glowing cinematic tribute by Navy veteran Scott Mactavish, who also recently gave us RIDE FOR LANCE, is like a positive charge for anyone whose spiritual batteries are drained from hearing about nothing but the negative aspects of life. 

The memory of Lt. Michael P. Murphy is in no danger of fading away--not with such a wealth of family and friends who continue to hold him in such high esteem.  Many of them are on hand here, including his proud parents, Maureen and Daniel, and people who either grew up with Michael or encountered him as fellow schoolmates, lifeguards, or soldiers.

We get to know him pretty well.  Mike was the small but scrappy, studious but athletic kid who would not only dive into a mud puddle for the football or get skinned knees playing hockey, but would give up his room when orphaned cousins came to live with them. 

Endearing testimonials tell of Mike's overriding concern for others, especially weaker people being abused and taken advantage of by stronger ones.  Stories such as his defense of a class nerd being humiliated by bullies have me silently cheering for him, as does a later incident in which, as a Navy SEAL, he will sacrifice his life during a hopeless firefight in Afghanistan in order to try and save the men serving with him.

The presentation is tastefully done, and tugs lightly at the heartstrings without lapsing into maudlin sentiment.  Artistically designed photo montages along with old film and video footage are very well integrated with the interview segments to bring "Murph", as he liked to be called, to life for us. 

Mactavish keeps things pleasingly low-key and doesn't go overboard in trying to make Murphy into a saint--although merely relating the facts as they happened would seem to go a long way in doing so.  With both a battleship and a scholarship named after him, he's a guy whose memory can't help but inspire and enlighten.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the interview segments is how happy the mood is--these are joyful memories and recollections, some simple, others deeply emotional, that people relish sharing and that still make their eyes light up.

Even his parents' recollections are mostly told with a smile, and they beam while rummaging through old, cherished memories of their son.  Good spirits prevail because these memories are so uplifting, which is infectious for the viewer as well.  It isn't until Michael's final mission as a Navy SEAL is recalled that the mood darkens considerably.

Making us realize how much Michael meant to others, and how much a vital part of their lives he had become over the years, emphasizes the enormity of his loss.  Thus,  when late in the film the smiles turn to sadness and voices begin to crack as people hold back the tears, the film's subtle emotional impact reaches its peak.  Mactavish, to his credit, allows this to happen naturally without having to pound the point home.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with stereo sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  No extras.

While these days scandalous behavior so often gets the most attention, it's a nice change to hear the story of a life such as this.  Every battery needs a positive charge, and MURPH: THE PROTECTOR has the power to generate it.

Buy it at


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