ACT OF VALOR
US, 2012, 110 minutes, Colour.
Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez.
Directed by Mike Mc Coy and Scott Waugh.
The promotion for this film highlights the fact that several actual Navy Seals take the central roles. While their acting is no great shakes, they bring an authenticity to the many action sequences throughout the film. It does not disguise the fact that it is a piece of cinema propaganda for the Seals and their patriotic spirit and acts of valor for the United States – and may well attract quite a number of recruits. But, as with any program that takes a ‘hawkish’ stance and presents it with quite some gung ho relish, there are the perpetual questions about military methods and actions.
The film offers some moments of training but takes much of that for granted. It also focuses on the Seals in action after receiving intelligence about their mission, though the film does not show the workings of the intelligence agencies and how they come by their intel.
We are introduced to the group and learn a little about their backgrounds and their families. One of the Seals is married and his wife is expecting. Another does a voiceover, talking to the child about the character of his father, so we know there is going to be death and sadness.
The film opens with an act of terrorist barbarity in the bombing of some children and the American ambassador at a school in Manila. This sets the plot in motion for a war against drugs and against terror. The action sequences, signaled by an on-screen map with technical location details, take place in Costa Rica, Ukraine, off the African Coast and in Mexico.
Needless to say, seeing the Seals in action, has many exciting moments, especially a raid in Costa Rica against drug dealers to rescue an abducted agent. The main villain is a Ukrainian who is providing a childhood friend from Chechnya with a sophisticated, undetectable vest filled with ceramic pellets which will explode like shrapnel and intended for a group of suicide bombers in the principal American cities. The climax of the film is the search and destroy mission in Mexico for the leader and his suicide squad.
As always in this kind of story, we realise that the villains are unscrupulous, have many violent means at their disposal and that there are forces out there who are protecting us, involved in dangers on our behalf as we sit in the cinema and watch this kind of action drama.
1. A military film? Morale-boosting? Propaganda? The American perspectives? The gung-ho lives of the Navy SEALs? Wars against terror, drugs?
2. The background of the Navy SEALs and the marines? San Diego, training, jumping from aircraft? Action and training? The team?
3. The realism of the film, the use of actual Navy SEALs in the central roles, the qualities of their performance, authentic, the actors in supporting roles? The impact for audiences and admiration for the Navy SEALs?
4. The voice-over, the speech about the dead SEAL, his life, his bequest to his son, the son’s heritage? Foreshadowing the death in action?
5. The men, their vocation as SEALs? In action, their talk together, friendship, camaraderie, on the beach, with their families, the pregnant wife, the surf and lifestyle?
6. The drug situations in the 21st century? Around the world? The use of the computer maps with the location information? The introduction to the drug business, undercover agents, the arms deals, use of arms for terrorism?
7. The Manila sequence, the school, the truck, the ice cream, the kids crowding round, the ambassador and his son, the explosion and deaths? The killer walking away?
8. Costa Rica, the agents, the doctor undercover, in the house, the patients and the children, Christo and his presence in the yard, his reputation? The delivery, the shooting of the agent, the abduction of the doctor? Her torture? The phone calls from the Ukraine, the orders about the torture and getting information?
9. The Ukraine, Christo and his background, his friendship with the terrorist? Their lives, the growing up together? The clash in the Ukraine? The issue of the bombs, the ceramics? The factory and the women sewing the ceramics into the cloth? The selection of the death squads, suicide plan? The cities of the United States?
10. The sequence in Africa, the coast, the boat, capturing Christo, the agent and his manner in interrogating Christo, the threats to the family?
11. The rescue of the abducted doctor, the role of the SEALs, the planning, the intel? The teams, on land, in the helicopters, the trucks? Entering the compound, the coordination, the attack, the deaths, the rescue, the pursuit, the truck-crashes, the guns? The boat, being lifted into the helicopter? The SEAL with the eye injury?
12. Mexico, the collaboration with the local police, the milk factory as a cover for the tunnels under the border? Locating the factory, the attack, the discovery of only part of the suicide squad? The continued pursuit, the fight? The deaths? The achievement of the mission? The SEAL and his heroic death? The narrator and his injuries?
13. The importance of intelligence, the film not giving the detail of how it was discovered but simply transmitted to the SEALs to go into action?
14. The return home, the news of the death, the wife and giving birth, the son, the funeral? The future? The spirit of the Navy SEALs?
15. Commentaries and the critique of the film as militaristic, gung-ho, hawkish? The nature of the SEALs and their work?