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In 'Act of Valor' there is hope for Hollywood yet

The new movie from Relativity Media and Bandito Brothers Productions stars active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-craft crewmen

It’s on The Wall.  It’s in many friends’ email signatures.  It’s in the heart of every true warrior out there.  “In valor there is hope.”  When those words appeared on the screen following the film “Act of Valor” I had to pause a moment, allowing the lump in my throat to subside and the tears in my eyes to dry. 

Only after that momentary breather could I turn to the guy sitting next to me and utter the only words that made sense at the time. 

“That was [bleeping] awesome.”

The first image above — a screen grab from the official movie trailer for Act of Valor — shows the view the audience gets from one of the action sequences.  The image below — from the image gallery posted to the official Act of Valor website — shows how close the filmmakers got to the active-duty Navy SEALs who star in the picture.  (PoliceOne Image)
The first image above — a screen grab from the official movie trailer for Act of Valor — shows the view the audience gets from one of the action sequences. The image below — from the image gallery posted to the official Act of Valor website — shows how close the filmmakers got to the active-duty Navy SEALs who star in the picture. (PoliceOne Image)

Real SEALs, Real Excitement
At SHOT Show 2012 in Las Vegas I was talking with some of my good friends at 5.11 Tactical when someone in the group invited me to attend a special, sneak-preview screening of “Act of Valor.”  I don’t get to the movies all that much, but when I first saw the TV commercials for the film, I told my wife that on opening night she’d be on her own — I’d be taking myself to the local Cineplex.  So when I was given the awesome opportunity to see the film a month-and-a-half early, and in a roomful of police officers and military veterans, I knew I had to immediately cancel my existing dinner reservations.  I also knew that I would soon be writing my first-ever movie review. 

The film’s official website states that “Act of Valor” is “and unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking” starring “active-duty Navy SEALs in a powerful story of contemporary global anti-terrorism.”

I couldn’t have said that better myself, so why not just utilize that nifty copy/paste capability of my PoliceOne laptop computer? 

Here’s more. 

“When a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA operative unexpectedly results in the discovery of an imminent, terrifying global threat,” the site says, “an elite team of highly-trained Navy SEALs must immediately embark on a heart-stopping secret operation...”

That’s all I’ll tell you about the plot.  You can watch the trailer to see more.  I will tell you that the storyline takes the audience from Philippines to Costa Rica to San Diego to Ukraine to Somalia to Mexico — with a few stopovers in places like a C-130, a submarine, an aircraft carrier, and a luxury yacht. 

I will also tell you that I’ve never seen a movie company try so very hard — and succeed so very well — at recreating the movements of a tactical team, or the madness of a rapidly-unfolding, high-stress encounter.  Not only did the Navy reportedly have control over whether or not a scene was included in the final cut, they also had veto power on what sort of action sequences were even filmed — they simply wouldn’t do something that isn’t accurate or authentic.  Full stop. 

I’ve also never seen a movie in which live ammunition is used — that’s been ‘outlawed’ in Hollywood for the better part of a century.  The SEALs in “Act of Valor” use live ammo — lots of it — and the effect is stunning.  In fact, this movie may make all others which follow — those going back to the standard of not using live ammo — end up seeming all the more flat in comparison to “Act of Valor.”

Operators, Not Actors
Now, don’t get me wrong.  None of these guys is going to be receiving an Oscar at the Academy Awards next year.  None of them needs, or wants, any such “honor.”  Their honor and their awards are far loftier — far more meaningful — than any type of trinket Hollywood hands out. 

Some performances do, however, really stand out above others.  The voiceover done by one of the SEALs is fantastic — reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s voiceover stuff in Blade Runner.  The SEAL who played the Senior Chief actually has some real acting chops, and upon retirement from the Teams could find himself receiving calls from other Hollywood producers. I tend to doubt he’d return those calls, but he’ll probably get them. 

Furthermore, the work of Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh is amazing, awe-inspiring stuff.  I would not be surprised in the slightest if they’re nominated for some sort of Hollywood acolade.  For that matter, the Cinematography by Shane Hurlbut is fantastic.  The folks in the Sound Department and Visual Effects Department also deserve a lot of praise.  They nailed it. 

Oh yeah, although she’s only got about ten total minutes of screen time, I cherish any chance I get to watch Roselyn Sanchez. Sweet googly-moogly.

For Warriors, by Warriors
As I wrote this column today, I ‘Googled’ the movie to get those images above, the embedded movie trailer and featurette below, and some other little tidbits of information to share with you.  In so doing, I saw some miscellaneous movie reviews.  More than one newspaper scribe has posted his or her opinion that the movie “lacks this” or “fails at that” or “misses the mark at the other thing.” 

Don’t believe that stuff.  It’s written for your run-of-the-mill civilian mouth-breather, not the heroes who read PoliceOne.  One movie critic even suggested that instead of real SEALs, the filmmakers should have cast guys like Tom Cruise or Jeremy Renner or Denzel Washington. 

Talk about totally missing the point.  This film was made by warriors, for warriors

Best War Movie Ever?
While I don’t get to the theatres much, I do have a fairly impressive DVD collection.  As you might imagine, it’s chock-full of action-packed, adrenaline-fueled movies about war, terrorism, police work, and other such stuff.  I’ve seen Black Hawk Down no fewer than 50 times, I’m sure.  Same with Apocalypse Now, Clear and Present Danger, Saving Private Ryan, Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, The Hurt Locker, and a handful of others in heavy rotation at the Wyllie residence — particularly after everyone but me has gone to bed! 

In my humble estimation, “Act of Valor” tops them all. 

Each of the abovementioned movies is great — I will watch them over and over.  But upon seeing “Act of Valor” I know I will have a new favorite go-to movie in my DVD collection just as soon as it hits store shelves.  Furthermore, while I don’t get to the theaters more than perhaps twice a year, and while I’ve already seen “Act of Valor” once, I’m still keeping the promise I’d made to myself to see it on opening night tonight. In fact, I just “voted with my wallet” at the online ticket booth for a theatre a few blocks from the PoliceOne offices.

One final thought.  I mentioned that I’d turned to the guy sitting next to me in that Las Vegas theatre and uttered my vaguely-profane praise for the film after the credits had run.  I won’t reveal here who he is, but I will tell you he’s a combat veteran of U.S. Army Special Operations who has been there and done that.  Big time.

I believe his response back to me was something to the effect of... “[Bleeping] A.” 

In valor there is hope. 

Official Act of Valor Trailer

Making of... Act of Valor

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