ACT OF VALOR (2012/B/Directed by Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh/Starring Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, Alexander Asefa, Chief Dave, Lt. Rorke, Jason Cottle/Relativity Media/Rated R/Action/101 minute):
Watching real-life Navy SEALs at work in “Act of Valor” is a pleasure, with certain reservations. The harrowing action nearly makes you forget a few unfortunate scenes that require the SEALs to act — a task clearly falling outside their job description.
Originally intended for recruitment, this film, directed by stunt men Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, morphed into a feature presentation that is pro American, pro democracy and pro heroism. Many critics take umbrage with its “go America” attitude, some terming the result “military porn,” and calling those inclined to like it “patri-idiots.”
Both characterizations are harsh, since the vast majority of Americans pray for peace. The question is, why shouldn’t we feel reassured by the talent and training our defense dollars buy?
However, a lesser known controversy plagues not only this film, but any number of Hollywood blockbusters that must bow to the Pentagon’s demand that studios and filmmakers grant the Pentagon line-by-line editing power in exchange for filming either U.S. military equipment or personnel. It’s an infuriating effort to control the propaganda message wrapped within our entertainment — not to mention the trampling of free speech.
Such first amendment issues are less important in “Act of Valor,” a film that proudly wears its stars and stripes on its sleeve. The action proclaims an unwavering belief in our Navy SEALs and those working with them in support positions. We fervently hope this belief is earned. The filmmakers have repeatedly claimed that casting active duty SEALs meant agreeing to their terms. Those were: They use live ammunition, and scripting missions and action, that were realistic.
It’s debatable whether the result is great movie-making, but for those interested in the world of covert ops, or the methods used to gather intelligence and follow leads, the film has much to offer. Though the mission is fictional, it purports to follow the procedures and protocols used within our military/intelligence complex. If this is true, perhaps what is most frightening after all is said and done, are the delicate threads of information upon which the success of difficult missions depend.
It’s a thrilling ride — God help us.