Act Of Valor

Act of Valor must be the last and final movie about the US Special Forces. Oh, there will be many more I am sure, but I hope this is the last, because it is impossible to top this one. This is not a pro-war movie or a pro-military movie or a pro-America movie. Whatever prejudice you had formed from watching the trailer, leave it at the theater door and you will witness one of the best real-life based action movie ever made.

It’s not fair to call this film a movie because, too often, it looks like a documentary. Scripted lines seem too far and few in between and the action sequences are too raw and jarring to be scripted. None of the characters say any punch lines before taking out an enemy, no one gives a rallying speech before beginning a mission and nor does anyone forget their roles. Their roles are about bringing their ballsiest career choice and its complexities in front of the camera and they do it with an ice-cold resolve that is hard to miss. Did I mention that almost all the actors in this film are not actual actors but real life active US marines and special force operatives ? Right from the beginning, when the captain and his lieutenant of SEAL team 7 go for surfing in the US pacific coast, it is clear that acting and delivering lines are not among their specialties. Their specialties involve executing strategic and tactical missions, operating some fearsome machinery and some soft skills that are hard to define, like leadership, loyalty and, of course, valor.

The movie showcases almost every aspect of the overwhelming capability possessed by the American elite forces. Air strikes and hot evacuations, submarine deployments, unmanned flight surveillance, amphibian combat interceptions and, the most impressive of all, the extremely precise on-foot search and sweep missions to neutralize criminal-infested shanty towns laced with civilians. The operating environment, whether its a rundown factory controlled by murderous Mexican drug cartel or one of the most remote and densest forests of Indonesia were captives are held, has little to no impact in the outcome of the SEAL team’s missions. And by outcome, I mean the mission’s objective. People -soldiers and civilians- get shot, injured and killed, which are never part of the desired outcome, but nothing compromises the primary objective. And every team member makes sure of that.

Although, from the surface, the high-tech weapons and gadgets seem to be their best strengths, when the film ends, one understands that they are just tools aiding these hardened men and women. Their real strength and their perceived invincibility comes from their own fellow team mates. The trust among them is unquestionable and they operate, always, as one unstoppable force that leaves nothing standing in its wake. This is clearly visible during missions when the unexpected happens. No one stops to wonder what to do; their roles and functions are burned into their muscle memory and they operate and change maneuvers by unadulterated instinct. With chaos and death often enveloping them they fall back on each other to push through all the improbabilities of active combat. This movie makes Black Hawk Down look like Black Swan.

I have not mentioned anything about the story-line deliberately, because the story is only secondary in this film. It’s the usual and common narrative about national security with very little twist and, I think, rightfully so. For this movie, the story is not in the script. The real story is about the men and their choices. The movie makes no explicit attempt to glorify the SEAL teams’ actions, barring the heavy sound track. Unlike many popular military movies, there are very few wise-cracks and emotionally charged epithets. A lot is left unspoken and the viewer is simply expected to get it, even when someone makes an unthinkable and ultimate sacrifice. No one stops to cry or make a moving monologue, except at the very end; they proceed with the mission and the audience is expected to just get it. My guess is that many in the theater did get it which they expressed, more than a couple times, with loud and collective applause.

It would seem that its almost a shame that these remarkable men and women get to live with us. Us, the commoners with our common and relatively insignificant problems. We get pissed-off when there is no cell-phone connectivity or if someone messes up our lunch order. But may be its not fair to compare us with them. If we have all got our own wars to fight, then there is a lot for us to learn from these guys. All we need is an impressive array tools and some soft skills, like leadership, loyalty and, of course, valor.

[Post: 216 of 365] [Days Missed: 66]
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