A week ago today I went to the theater and watched Act of Valor. Beforehand I had read through many of the personal and professional movie critic write-ups about the movie. I saw all the negatives that people had written; it was nothing more than recruiter movie, the acting was bad, and the end was predictable.
So let me start with answering these critiques before I move into my review.
Act of Valor is as much a recruiting movie as Blackhawk Down, Green Berets, or The Hurt Locker. It was a war-based action movie. There is no Navy recruiter advertisement before, during or after the movie. There is nothing that shows being a Seal is easy and for everyone. In fact it shows that you have to leave your family with no notice, that you can really get hurt and you can die. There is nothing “recruiting” about it. It shows dudes that are in great shape, who have awesome guns and toys and they go to bad places and kill bad dudes. How is that different from just about any other war-based action movie.
Another one was that is was bad acting. Hmm, if all I cared about what quality top-notch acting, I would never watch a movie that didn’t have either Clint Eastwood, Don Cheadle or Jack Nicholson in it. I mean come on, was Blue Brothers, The Matrix or Star Wars known for great acting? I didn’t think so. But they were really good movies. They provided entertainment for the viewer. They, like many other movies which are really good in the popular opinion or ticket sales, are just entertaining. They either make you laugh, cry, or take you away from reality and for a hour or two make you forget about all the other crap in life. That is what Act of Valor does too. But this movie is far and above beyond that, because these “bad actors” are the real deal. When you consider they never went to theater classes, grew up bouncing from commercial or sitcom to some other acting gig, then they are actually pretty good actors in my book.
The last critique I will address is that the end is predictable. Yeah so was The Titanic and Pearl Harbor but those movies were blockbusters. Some said they knew the Seals would come out looking great…hmm, what did you expect a few hidden terrorists, a wife beater and a drug addict? This is Act of Valor, not 24. Yes the Navy supported this by allowing active duty Navy Seals take time off from work to star in this movie, and allow for Navy resources to be used. So does anyone expect the film-makers to make the Navy look bad? Get a life people.
I feel like I have written most of my review already, just answering the critics, but lets see what else I can add. The movie was truly entertaining, in fact it was beyond that. Most military movies that are big hits are hailed by unknowing civilians, but criticized heavily by military members who know the real deal. This movie is just the opposite, and I am glad that finally a military movie was 100% accurate, from the jargon to the weapons to the tactical conduct. This movie was dead on for everything it showed. There was no coaching of actors needed, or experts brought in to run a 2 day boot-camp to give the actors a glimpse of what military life may be like. These guys acted, talked and conducted themselves like they do every day at work.
Even though it is not based on any one true-life event, it is based on real missions they have conducted. It gives a glimpse into the harrowing missions our special operators are asked to perform. It shows how sometimes the most important missions require our military to conduct operations in countries that are not always acknowledged. It also gives the viewer a slight glimpse into the lives and sacrifices our military families have to make.
This is not a feel-good, guy wins the girl and kills all the bad guys kind of movie. For one there is no “girl” in it, and for another good guys get wounded and die too. It does make the viewer feel good though, at least I think it should. Innocent people are murdered by terrorists, not only to make you hate the terrorists, but because that is what they do. Maybe the next time a civilian sees on the news that a car bomb went off outside some market or place of worship, they will pause to think what that really means.
Another thing I liked about this movie is that it was not all PC and worried about offending other countries. The countries this movie takes place in are real places. Some are known bad spots, others not so much. Some are our allies, some aren’t. I was glad to see it portray it in real locations around the globe and in fact in some areas that right now could be the next war-front for our country (just most people don’t realize that, because media is not there).
In additions to real SEALS, real places and realistic scenarios, this movie uses real bullets. Yes the live-fire scenes were real with real bullets, lots of them. Just knowing that ahead of time made watching the movie that much more enjoyable.
I walked out of the theater with my son (who also served in Afghanistan) and as we were talking about how good it was, we ran into a mutual friend who is 100% civilian. We didn’t know he had been in the theater too. He had not heard of the movie until a buddy of his told him about it a few hours before so they decided to come see it. He was truly moved by the sacrifices the SEALS made, and that in turn raised his awareness of all the military. I knew this young man when he was a kid and he knew that my son and I had both served. Yet he was empathetic in his words to us and how much this movie opened up his eyes to the types of missions the military has to do.
This movie may never win any awards (except some MTV Movie Awards), but I think it will develop a huge cult following. I see this occupying a lot of people’s favorite DVD collection. It was truly entertaining and for less than 2 hours anyone can just escape from all the politically correct, enemy coddling actions that our country does and just pretend for a little while that when bad dudes need to die, our military is allowed to do it.
It is truly a MUST-SEE in movie in my book. If you get the chance to go to the movies and want to get an idea of the kind of things our special operators do, then please go see this one. It makes up for crappy ones that Charlie Sheen and Demi Moore starred in.