INSPIRED – The only real buzz I heard about Act of Valor before its release last week was that it starred real life Navy Seals, not actors. While this is indeed true, this film is much more than a novelty trick. It is not only as authentic a portrayal of U.S. Special Forces combat as you will ever see, it’s a darn good film, expertly directed and edited by folks who know what they’re doing.
As I was watching Act of Valor, I kept thinking of the trailers that ran before it. Various action flicks starring guys like Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, and new kid on the action franchise block, Jeremy Renner. Even a Desert Storm tear jerker starring none other than teen heart-throb Zac Efron. Would Act of Valor have been better with any of those film “stars” speaking the words and pretending to shoot those guns and infiltrate hot spots? Answer simple: HELL NO! Okay, maybe Renner.
No, the acting is not going to win any awards, and some of the dialogue exchanges are stiff; but all of it comes from the heart, and just knowing that these guys are not only doing all of the tactical work in the film, but are capable of this type of heroic activity around the world makes the viewing experience a genuine thrill.
Directed and produced by Mike McCoy, with stunt direction from Scott Waugh, with a budget of $15m, Act of Valor is already a box office success, bringing in $25m in its opening weekend. The theatre I sat in with my sons yesterday afternoon was near capacity. Yes, a mostly male audience; but the heart and soul of the story is about man’s dedication to his family, and that genuine emotion runs throughout the action without any false sentimentality.
The night before Navy Seal Team 7 sets out on their mission to recover a CIA operative taken hostage in Manila, the Seals stand around a beach bonfire. The leader of the team (none of the Seals are credited by name), tells his brothers in arms that they cannot go forward unless everyone is good at home. The belief that soldiers can’t go into battle wondering if they had been a good husband or father, wishing they had said something to a wife – or a child. Relationships, finances, obligations. Much of this we hear through very effective narration: “If you are not willing to give up everything, you have already lost.”
Act of Valor makes no apologies for its premise or its villains. The bad guys are radical Jihadist terrorists hellbent on murdering innocent civilians and ultimately bringing the American economy to a halt. How refreshing is that?
Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts painted an optimistic picture of the future for U.S. military involvement in not only the Middle East, but hostile regions around the world. After being embedded with our troops numerous times, Kaplan’s assessment of our tactical potential, and the quality of the men and women we train for engagement, is flattering to say the least.
Kaplan claims that our military technology and expertise has risen to such precision that we will no longer need large bases with thousands of troops “occupying” foreign nations. Our presence and influence can be exerted by small, highly specialized 12-15 man units strategically positioned to neutralize any global threats before they percolate.
After watching Act of Valor, it’s hard to disagree with Kaplan. It’s also hard not to put your hands together and let our troops know that we stand in awe of their commitment to preserving American values. The sacrifices made on our behalf should not require a film or official declaration or holiday to get our attention. But, we are spoiled in the grand old U.S. of A. and that’s okay. Our troops would have it no other way.
If you are looking for a way to let our troops know you have their back: