A week ago my wife and I went to see the movie Act of Valor.
“An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, Act of Valor stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a film like no other in Hollywood’s history. A fictionalized account of real life Navy SEAL operations, Act of Valor features a gripping story that takes audiences on an adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-their-seat journey.” (From the official website.)
Enthusiasts outside the military hoping to see secret tactics revealed by the film will be disappointed. The film reinforces professional and competent tactics many have already seen, or imagined, only this time with the support of real SEALs themselves rather than actors. Refreshingly, in Act of Valor we get to see real warriors doing their jobs in a realistic way, without falling victim to an overblown, uninformed and overactive Hollywood imagination. Even so, it’s still an action story that’s well put together. Plot holes? Sure. Accelerated timelines? Yes. But what you end up seeing is a story rooted in the real-world, accelerated to allow us to experience it in a short 110 minutes.
So it’s clear up front: I liked the movie. While not a documentary, the movie unfolds without a political bias or agenda. It’s about SEALs doing the work they do, regardless of who sits in the Commander in Chief’s seat. This is refreshing. As a military officer I serve at the pleasure of the President and am bound by my oath to follow his lawful orders, regardless of political party. Interestingly, the oath our U.S. military professionals take is an oath swearing to support and defend the Constitution, not any specific personality or political party. This is quietly communicated well.
Act of Valor is rated R for strong language and violence. While not excessively graphic, the rating is definitely warranted. If my son was older, I would have taken him back to see it. It’s definitely a movie I’ll add to my library at home due to the positive messages of honor, sacrifice and manhood it communicates. We’ll watch it together when the day comes. Here are the themes that resonated with me and I intend to reinforce with my son:
- Service before self and serving something bigger than yourself
- Strength and humility vs. arrogance
- Family: actual (e.g. husbands, wives, kids) and extended (in this case, military)
- Living bravely and dealing with fear
The movie uses a story to honor our troops. Will it serve as a recruiting device? Sure, but it’s clear this isn’t the primary reason the movie was made. What the film does well is cause the audience to identify with real warriors, individuals who we get to know and get to watch do things that are difficult and demanding. These aren’t just a few military men and their families we read or hear about in the news. The impact is visceral.
Finally, before I saw the film several friends told me when they went to see it, the audience applauded at the end. I know why. Interestingly, when my wife and I saw it, the response was dramatically different: absolute silence. It verged on reverence and was almost overwhelming. The movie ended and people quietly and respectfully stood and left the theater. I was stunned in the best of ways.
Visit the official site for more info (http://actofvalor.com/official/) or better yet, go see the film. I think you’ll enjoy it, and if you have older kids, take them too.
It’s great to be a dad!