“Act of Valor”: a brief review, w/spoilers

| February 25, 2012

[Originally posted over at Ace of Spades]

Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf. — George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

This film has gotten a fair amount of ‘net publicity — though probably not nearly enough regular marketing — because of its fundamental concept: film a movie about what Navy Seals do, using actual Navy Seals and, by the way, a lot of live ammunition. It sounds like a recipe for a heartfelt but amateur film.

While it is heartfelt, it is anything but amateur.

Yes, the Seals themselves tend to sound just a bit stilted when talking with each other, as I suspect most of us would if we were filmed. But after a while, that just adds to the ambiance of the film. What came through is that these are real men who train for and carry out exactly these missions. At no point in the film did I roll my eyes or make a quiet snide comment to my wife. Nor was there any hint of political correctness, stupid plot twists, or Hollywood tropes (save one, but see below). The film had great direction, great cinematography, great sound, and great editing.

What I was not prepared for at the end of the film was the list of Naval Special Warfare personnel who have died in the line of duty since 9/11. It was a much longer list than I would have expected. My wife and I were quiet when we left the film and for most of the drive home. As we walked out of the theater, past the posters for various coming films, I was struck in a new way how fatuous most of what Hollywood produces is, compared to a film such as this.

While it is doubtful that George Orwell ever said, “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf,” it is a true fact nevertheless. God bless such rough men in the service of the United States.

Highly recommended. Some spoilers after the jump.




One of the lead characters, Roarke, is leaving behind a pregnant wife, and you know, you know as soon as you learn that, that he isn’t going to make it through the film. Yet it is powerful nevertheless. Because what happens is that a grenade is thrown into the midst of his team; he looks at it, and time slows down, and you find yourself asking, “What would I do? I have a wife, an unborn child at home. I can throw myself back away from it.” But Roarke does what so many military men have done, including those with wives and children — he throws himself on it and is killed, but saves the rest of his team thereby.

This has particular emotional resonance with me, because my nephew Darren is in the Marines. He has served two tours in Afghanistan and came back stateside to go through special weapons training before going back for a third tour — which has since been canceled due to the draw-down of US forces. He has a lovely young wife and an infant son, and yet he was not only willing but eager to go back to Afghanistan for that third tour. (His wife, God bless her, chewed his ass something fierce when he expressed disappointment over not being able to go back again.) Again, God bless not just the rough men who keep us safe, but their families as well. ..bruce w..

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Category: Main, Military, Movies, Reviews

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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