Movie Review: Act of Valor

After the Navy SEALS achieved their target on May 2, 2011 I wanted to learn more about the heroic Navy SEALS. This led me to the best book I read in 2011, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell.

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

I was raised to show respect for the military. My father was a combat Vietnam Veteran. My review is colored by that perspective. I thank Marcus Luttrell and his fellow soldiers for their service to our country. After I finished the book, I was so shaken by the immensity of his courage that I had to learn more about his life following the end of his mission. We live in a connected world, so I was able to put the book down, pick up my laptop and read about him on Wikipedia. I logged into Facebook and sent him a friend request. So many people were motivated the way I was, he has a huge community — that day when I found him online he was posting sporadically as his wife was in labor delivering their first child. Very cool.

My favorite scene.

I continue to follow Mr. Luttrell and his foundation and Boot Campaign online. Through him I learned about the upcoming movie Act of Valor, a film about a Navy SEAL mission inspired by true events, featuring active duty Navy SEALS. If you are looking for a parent friendly review of the film, I like Common Sense Media. My response is written from a personal perspective, not a family perspective. This is not a movie for children. The NC-17 rating is correct. In response to rotten tomatoes review, I disagree with critics that consider this movie jingoistic, woodenly acted and with a cliched script. If you want a carefully considered review of the movie, I like what Roger Ebert has to say. “Act of Valor” is gift-wrapped in patriotism. It was once intended as a recruitment film, and that’s how it plays. The action scenes are harrowing but exciting. Lots of explosions and special effects. At the end, there is a full-dress military funeral, honoring three generations of warriors.”

And for those critics on Rotten Tomatoes, would you offer that review to a SEAL’s face? Just wondering.

I think the point of the movie is to demonstrate the new face of war. To call this movie jingoistic is to trivialize the bravery of men that go on these missions and the silent sacrifices at home. The movie ends by scrolling through 60 names of fallen SEALS who made the ultimate sacrifice in the post 9/11 world. The script hit the high notes of showing a mission coming together through accumulated intelligence, a small team rapidly assembled, relying on heavy training and experience to navigate a video game landscape peopled with real bad guys with real ammunition. I did not expect a searing documentary–this is not an expose, it is a recognition of an elite cadre of men that stare down threats that I can’t even fathom. The scenarios may have lacked nuance and originality but I think they were authentic in painting the pictures of the new face of war. We don’t fight countries anymore. We fight small groups of bad men. Countries don’t have neat borders, the US-Mexico border is a strange amorphous place called Mexical and it is laced with tunnels and punctuated with cartel strongholds. I wish that was fictional and overblown.

The nice thing about a movie like Act of Valor is that you know if this is your kind of movie– if you have a We Support Our Troops sticker on your car, then you can go to this movie too and see what a stylized version of a SEAL mission looks like. It made me grateful for my quiet life and I thank the SEALS for keeping the bad guys out. This movie has value because it drives home the truth that our soldiers have been fighting a brutal war for ten years, their families wait and worry at home for them. I think it is a good thing for these anonymous men to get some profile and support for the courage that they show. Yes, this movie is gift wrapped in patriotism, but it will attract a broad audience and invite some gratitude for these brave men. I’m okay with that. Roger Ebert prefers the documentary “To Hell and Back Again” so I will check that out as well.

Act of Valor prominently features a poem by Chief Tecumseh (this poem is also ascribed to Wabasha, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Wovoka). It’s beautiful, whatever your feelings are about Act of Valor, this is a poem worth reading.

So live your life so the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a stranger if in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life and strength.

Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs them of their visions.

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death,

so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Marcus Luttrell’s new book Service 05 / 2012


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