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Act of Valor (A Review)

Courtesy of Grace Hill Media, Kathy and I saw a free advance screening of Act of Valor, an upcoming motion picture featuring active Navy SEALs.

Before the movie began, a representative from Grace Hill Media told us that everyone we saw in uniform in the film was an actual active soldier. That's probably a bit of an exaggeration; however, it is well-known that the eight principal Navy SEALs in the movie are the real deal. They're not just Navy SEALs, but active Navy SEALs. Since they are active, their real names are not used in the credits for the movie.

I don't know if it will be featured with the full release of the film, but in our advance screening, there was a brief introduction to the film from directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh of the Bandito Brothers production company. In preparation for the movie they spent six months with active Navy SEALs and came to the conclusion that actors could not convincingly portray what they observed. Having decided to use real SEALs in the characters' roles, they were given unprecedented access not only to the soldiers, but also to military equipment and locations. 

The movie's story revolves around a SEALs team's efforts to recover a kidnapped CIA agent and thwart a terrorist plot against the United States. Non-combat dialogue between the eight principal soldiers is the movie's primary weak point as these men are not professional actors. These scenes are somewhat reminiscent of the level of acting in recent films from Sherwood Pictures (not in any way affiliated with Act of Valor). 

However, the real advantage of using actual soldiers for the film comes in the combat sequences and provides a level of realism that I doubt any actors (of any caliber) could have offered. Kathy and I both found it absolutely fascinating to watch these professional soldiers in very realistic situations. Their skills for stealth, professionalism, and ability to make quick decisions were absolutely engrossing. 

Back in May of last year, if you saw footage of the White House staff watching Navy SEALs ambush Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan via the soldiers' helmet cams, you have a glimpse into the reaction of our audience last night. The combat scenes were incredibly intense, and at one point I looked around the theater to see hundreds of wide-eyed movie goers with their hands in front of their faces, just like the President's cabinet earlier this year. 

I won't give away the ending of the movie, but I will say that it was a bit predictable at a certain level. Considering the title of the movie in the singular and considering that there is in the plot a formulaic adaptation of the old cop movie "I just have this last case to solve before I can finally retire!" shtick, the final scenes are not overly surprising. Nevertheless, even if predictable, they were still quite moving. Even though the story itself was fictitious, the reality never left me that these were real soldiers and the events in the film depicted the kinds of actual situations that our soldiers--and their families--find themselves in every day.

No doubt this movie will inspire a new generation of young men to aspire to becoming SEALs themselves, although the reality remains that achieving such status has even less likelihood than the average teenager's goal of becoming a professional athlete. The SEALs are clearly the elite of the elite in our nation's defense. In spite of the fact that this world can be a very dangerous place to live at times, I went to bed last night feeling much safer after seeing this film.

Act of Valor, rated R for strong violence including some torture and for language, will be released nationwide on February 24, 2012.

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