“If you’re not willing to give up everything, you’ve already lost.”
Swift shot: How many times have you run into people claiming to be SEALs? Odds are, they were lying. With rare exceptions, the silent operators of the deep will emerge from the frosty surf long enough to do their duty and then sink back to the darkest depths. That is why I was shocked to hear active-duty SEALs were cast in this film, and (for our screening at least) the Bandito Brothers explained why before the film began in a short tribute to the elite warriors. These are not actors, but they sure as hell deliver the action!! Act of Valor is an exceptional military action film, which should be required viewing for anyone looking to join the service, any military service, during a time of conflict . . . i.e. WAR! The above image was a live action sequence that the Bandito Brothers had one chance to capture, of an actual SEAL team embarking to a sub. While this shot is epic, the next shot in this sequence is something you have to see on the big screen!
A lot of controversy has surrounded the access to the Teams for this film, and casting active duty personnel must be giving someone in the Naval Special Warfare headquarters a friggin’ ulcer, but, somehow, this film hit the can. My opinion on it is this, no real sources were revealed, names were changed and hopefully if the bad guys are taking notes, it will just flush them out into some well-devised trap wherein the actors will get a chance to face their . . . critics . . . toe to toe. I could live with that.
Much like a Law & Order episode, the film’s plot is ripped right from mission files of the Navy SEALs, and I won’t give away too much here. Essentially, a duo of really bad school friends decide they want to strike inside America and make a larger statement than 9/11. They both have their special skills, and when they reunite after years being apart, their union is something that we can’t allow . . . send in the SEALs!
The film’s narrative is read throughout as a letter to a son, as lessons are to be learned, morals taught, right and wrong determined, values earned in a perceived world where words mean nothing without action. Each time pieces of the letter are read, it will sink in more and more their overall impact . . . leading to a dramatic final closing signature. The film captures the hearth and hearts of these, often mis-portrayed, deadly men. My favorite line from the letter is, “The worst part about getting older is that other men no longer see you as dangerous.” No doubt, these men are incredibly dangerous, and more than a few times you will find yourself thinking . . . damn, I am glad they are on our side!
If you have ever seen Navy Seals, you have an icon, a stereotype, about what these men should be like. But, the most chilling aspect of the film shows how ‘normal’ they are, there are no idiotic scenes akin to Charlie Sheen jumping from a moving jeep on a bridge just to avoid a wedding, crap like that is not even a thought to these men. They are lethal, when necessary, and live life on the edge, at work, but at home they try to be the best providers for their families and balance their mortality with morality. The only verified SEAL that I ever met was the most down to earth person. It was refreshing to see Hollywood go to the ‘source’, for a change.
After I just got done reading my Drill Instructor’s EBook, Friends from Damascus, it was awesome to see some of the same types of action-sequences play out in the theater. When the live-rounds are being peppered into a Quick Reaction Force vehicle, and it almost turns into dust as the SWCC bubbas light it up from the river, it’s like a symphony of precise destruction. One thing I found interesting, given the current political seascape, was the use of female pilots used for the insertion craft sequences – personally, I couldn’t care less, if they can do the job, and the SEALs can live with it – - – who can argue with that?
This film is just one bad-ass ride at the movies; little dialog is necessary when the action takes the center stage. And, every critic’s favorite action-flick lament, “But where was the character development?’ goes nowhere here, because these weren’t characters, it was more like watching the actual troops reenact a previous engagement for our viewing pleasure.
Ok, Rick, you LOVED it, we get it, then why not five stars? Well, this is where I found myself puzzled. I expected the SEALs to not be able to act, and with the exception of a few scenes with Senior Chief, that held true. Still, I am not about to say they sucked . . . they can find me fairly easily, heh. The folks who were supposed to be the actors, didn’t bring their A-game, or maybe they did, but it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps that is understandable, because they may have been incredibly intimidated. But, in one scene, that was supposed to be emotionally riveting, the Christo actor (Alex Veadov) dropped so painfully in and out of his accent that I was actually expecting to hear – “CUT!”
But, if you live for hardcore action, you can’t do much better than this, because it is the real deal, the covert, presented in overt glory just so you can understand what true sacrifice these men live with everyday, the threat of death is something they face . . . everyday . . . so that you don’t have to come toe to toe with the enemy. Oddly enough, when the final credits rolled, I turned to Amadarwin and said, “I think we are going to war soon,” because the film has that feel, much like Pearl Harbor was released right before we were hit in 2001. It feels like a readiness drill.
I would like to take a few lines here to remember these brave warriors of the night who met their deaths while we all worried about petty things like bills, social networking and gas-prices . . . we are already at war, these Damn Few already know it! Semper Fi Team Six- “. . . the dead included 25 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six.”