Act of Valor: A Great Review by an American College Student

While some did not expect the movie Act of Valor to do as well at the box office as it ultimately did (over $56M over the first three weeks), it was primarily because not everyone expected a movie so clearly focused on values such as honor, courage, commitment and dedication to family and teammates would strike such a responsive chord.

And not many expected that our novelization of this movie, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor, would spend the better part of three months on the New York Times best-seller list, and that the book’s publisher, Penguin, would sell out of its original 400,000 copies printed and go into a major second printing less than two months after the book’s release.

But like most things in life, once some “water passes under the keel,” some retrospective and reflective looks come to the fore that provide a more finely-nuanced look at what this movie is all about.  What follows below appeared in a review of the movie by a student at a prestigious American college.  While I may not agree with everything he says, his thoughts are worth reading.  Here’s what he said about “Act of Valor

“While it may not be Oscar material, “Act of Valor” deserves a chance at redemption in The Tufts Daily. “Act of Valor” needs to be seen for what it is: a recruiting film for the Navy SEALs with active duty Navy SEALs as actors. Of course the quality of acting in this movie will not be first rate, but what it lacks in acting it makes up for in accuracy in depicting how the SEALs operate, which in my opinion is the most important aspect of any movie about the military, an institution that most Americans know little about. That being said, “Act of Valor” is a quality movie not because of what it is, but because of what it is not.

Rather than being a movie that makes every 13−year−old leave with the desire to be a badass Navy SEAL, “Act of Valor” drives home the point that in order to be a SEAL, one has to have little regard for his life in the face of danger, and they must be willing to leave family behind in the name of serving their country. “Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart” is one of Tecumseh’s quotes that appears in “Act of Valor.”

In my opinion, it’s important for a movie depicting the military, especially the military elite, to demonstrate that a real sense of selflessness and little desire for self−preservation are critical characteristics for those who serve in these units. You may be wondering why a recruiting film would drive this point home. The Navy SEALs are not looking to recruit everyone. This is an example of targeted recruitment; a few people have the required characteristics of a SEAL.

I agree with the previous review (Mar. 1) that the plot of this movie is unimpressive. The SEALs are up against a Ukrainian drug lord who teams up with a Chechen Islamic fundamentalist who uses Filipino suicide bombers to obtain his terror campaign against the United States. Realistic? Maybe not. However, the sexy locations and nationalities that grace the screen make the movie entertaining to watch. Bottom line, this film is trying to send the message that we are still in an age of American primacy, and that the United States can act wherever it wants, whenever it wants, with the SEALs as the tip of the spear.  The action scenes that show the SEALs in combat seem for the most part realistic. It’s clear that the director did his research and wanted to make these operation scenes as accurate as possible. He had a real Navy SEAL team at his disposal after all.

It’s interesting to take a look at the timing of this movie. Special Operations is a big winner in the recent budget cuts laid out by the Pentagon in January. Instead of losing funding, Special Operations Command has gained more personnel and a larger budget. Last month, Admiral William H. McRaven, who leads Special Operations Command, called to expand his authority to deploy Special Operation Forces around the world and to have more autonomy to make these decisions. President Obama is continually calling on the SEALs to carry out risky and high profile operations, such as the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, and the rescue of two aid workers in Somalia in January.

In summary, “Act of Valor” may not be a movie that has an intricate and clever plot with top−class actors to impress the Academy; however, it was never meant to be this. “Act of Valor” has succeeded in being a film that accurately portrays the Navy SEALs without losing touch of reality and over−glorifying their heroic actions. “Act of Valor” entices recruits, but it does so tactfully. Think twice before signing up to become a SEAL.”

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