A few years ago, this Navy SEALs fact-based feature may have seemed jingoistic, militaristic and rah-rah with its glamorous look at the military’s most elite soldiers in action. Following ten men – real SEALs - through international, strategic, pre-emptive operations, watching them put down trouble around the world is a heady experience.
We’re frankly gobsmacked by what they do and grateful that they put themselves in harm’s way for America. It is dangerous work, and they get it done. The tendency to glamourize elite units of the army is there, and the film could be seen as recruitment film in the guise of an action adventure thriller.
But these days, things are different, the solider is our friend. Given the volatile state of the world and widespread antipathy towards the US, a strong military, working covertly, is a necessity. The US is under siege from many enemies, and has sustained terrorist attacks at home, which seemed impossible and improbable “back then.”
But the US was attacked and life is different, there is a “new normal” and the US is on perpetual high alert. Skilled “boots on the ground” operatives must effectively uphold the US security in far flung countries and that may mean bombing, shooting, and eradicating enemy factions, with collateral damage, to keep the US safe.
So what is it that Navy SEALs do? It took four months for the filmmakers to convince the Navy to allow them access to a handful of men and film their stories. They do plenty – they are a police force on steroids, with the protection and backing of a wealthy government, trained to the hilt, armed with the latest and greatest equipment and charged with protecting the US.
The task at hand in this outing is to recover a female CIA agent who is being tortured in a jungle cell for information she’s collected on jihadists from the south pacific to the Ukraine looking to infiltrate the US. We follow the SEALs as they investigate, infiltrate and attack their targets.
The ultimate object is stopping the manufacture and distribution of suicide bomber vests that elude detection, invented in the Ukraine, and made in Mexico to be worn by suicide bombers over the border and into the US.
But first, there are certain “targets” the SEALs must capture to determine the chain of command and effort in the enemy organizations and disable the, faction by faction. Then they can use their deductive skills and accumulated knowledge to plan and carry out strikes.
Navy SEALs don’t strike pretty either. They are cool, collected, cunning, and quiet and exceedingly well equipped on the ground, in the air and on water. Their hits are hard and decisive and they take no prisoners.
The stories have been “re-enacted” here and the real SEALs are not identified by name in the credits. There are a few actors, but the core group is the real thing and while the “acting” isn’t up to par, the performances are based on truths few of us could imagine or absorb. Act of Valor is an eye opening thriller that doesn’t let up for a second. It’s also, to quote a friend, surprisingly entertaining.