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On Oscar Weekend, 'Act of Valor' Hits #1

As Tinseltown prepares for its annual orgy of self-celebration tonight, a low-budget, pro-military action picture has conquered the box office.  Despite Lefty complaints and relatively poor reviews (note the disconnect between critics and the general public at that link), Act of Valor is the number one movie in America.  Here's the basic thrust of the film, via Big Hollywood's Christian Toto:


“Act of Valor” follows a band of Navy SEALs dispatched to rescue a CIA operative (Roselyn Sanchez, “Without a Trace”) held captive in Costa Rica. The mission uncovers a much broader threat, a terrorist plot meant to wipe out thousands of innocents, maybe more. The SEALs regroup and prepare to strike new targets with a ferocity meant to spare lives and send a lesson to any one foolish enough to pull off a similar act of treachery. The opening sequence, a terrorist bombing near a schoolyard, announces that “Valor” isn’t interested in your standard action movie template. The bombing is carried out in shocking fashion, with the directors employing crisp vantage points to convey the kind of shock and awe western society faces today...

The CIA agent’s rescue is a stunning piece of cinema, a thrill ride that feels as cathartic as any summer blockbuster might deliver. But the sense of danger never leaves the screen, and the SEALs aren’t asked to recite any groan-worthy puns to undermine the experience. The acting in “Valor” lacks the sophistication we’ve come to expect from most Hollywood fare. The SEALs speak in unguarded vernacular, and while the exchanges allow audiences to appreciate their sacrifices no one character emerges to anchor the story. We get to know the SEALs as human beings, but they emerge as a collective. Yet the unpolished dialogue actually works to the film’s advantage at times, enhancing the authenticity “Valor” evokes. One sequence, featuring a SEAL interrogating a terrorist suspect, provides a glaring exception. It’s a terrific exchange, one that veers so far away from the Hollywood handbook that you’ll wish you could rewind it and experience it again. The film would be better served had similar scenes entered the narrative.


I caught the flick on Friday night at a packed theater in downtown DC.  While the dialogue was stilted at times (I concur with Toto that the interrogation scene was exceptional), the movie's plot and message packed a powerful one-two punch, and left me with a heightened sense of gratitude for our nation's greatest heroes.  Our elite warriors risk everything in total anonymity, granting the rest of us the security and prosperity to enjoy a weekend dinner and a movie back home without a second thought.  Even if Act of Valor weren't a blood-pumping, patriotism-stirring project, it would still be worth seeing, if only to honor the men and women it depicts.  Act of Valor stars real, active duty Navy SEALs and their families, featured zero CGI (special effects), and included live fire exercises during production.  A few more incredible tidbits:

While the story about a hostage rescue mission is fictional many of the scenes are based on real life missions. The elite unit were filmed during training exercises with live weapons being fired. Often more than a dozen cameras were set up and the SEALs were not given any acting instructions. The cameras just rolled as the team took part in free-fall parachute drops, high speed boat chases and dodging live grenades.

US military officials gave the filmmakers unprecedented access and they were able to film on a nuclear submarine and on an aircraft. "The film is about as realistic and as close as you could get to go on a SEALs mission," said director Mike McCoy. While the faces of the eight SEALs are visible their names do not appear on the final credits. Instead the names of their fallen comrades are projected on to the screen. Filmmakers Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh began making Act of Valor more than three years ago. Shooting was continually interrupted as the SEALs were often called away for secret missions overseas.


See this movie.

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