Friday, March 2, 2012

Movie Review - The Act of Valor

The Act of Valor came out in theaters a week ago today.  Since then, I have been repeatedly asked for my opinion about the movie.  I finally made it to the movies to check it out a couple days ago.  I am not a movie critic and find this review particularly difficult.  My plan is just to sort of lay it out there without much thought.

Initial Hesitations.  Going to this movie came with some concerns.

First, I was concerned about the fighting scenes.  I don't particularly enjoy "war movies" as they draw out emotions in me that I don't particularly enjoy.  The more realistic it is, the more I feel like I should be fighting back, yet find myself strapped to a chair helpless.

Second, I knew there would be fatalities suffered by the SEAL platoon in the movie.  For those watching the movie from the outside this is just standard movie stuff, but for me those who died in the movie were connected to real buddies who have been killed.  I sort of dreaded the death and funeral scenes because they would transport me back to the all too many funerals I have attended over the last ten years.

Finally, my greatest concern had to do with people in the movie theater.  I am highly sensitive to the lack of patriotism found in our nation today.  It really bothers me when I attend events and people don't stand, or stand still, in respect for the National Anthem.  I knew I had to brace myself to listen in silence to all the know-it-all movie attenders who would be spouting their mouths about the SEAL teams following the movie.

Thankfully, I really only had to deal with the second concern.

My review of the movie.  Again, I am not sure that I can give this movie a simple is far too complex from my perspective as it was not just going to the movies for fun sort of event.

First, if you have never served as a SEAL you will not get it.  Period.  You can't watch a movie or read a book and think you actually understand what the SEAL teams are all about.  To understand and know the culture, you have to have lived it.  There is simply no way to convey it any other way. 

Second, this was a Hollywood movie--not a documentary lest we get confused. The scenes were fairly realistic, but the timing and choreography of events are clearly based around the storyline which is clearly that--a storyline.

The bottom line is I really enjoyed the movie.  I enjoyed being launched back into the teams for that short while.  My mind was able to fill in the blanks where the movie missed it--the camaraderie, the adrenaline of leaving an aircraft, the discipline if takes to stay quiet, the misery of transitioning from water to land, and the truly amount of lethal fire power a select few men are able to sling down range when it is needed.

Watching the action unfold, I feared the movie was glamorizing what we do in the way that the last Summer Olympics motivated half of America to start swimming laps after watching Phelps' domination in the pool.  The spectator doesn't understand the extreme amount of hours of training and sacrifice that go into the exceptional moments that come far and few between.  It is this extreme commitment that the Christian is to apply to their walk with the Lord.  As Paul says, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

I don't know the stats, but I am certain that the recruiters offices around the nation have been overrun with young guys that want to give it a shot.  I wonder how many guys were chipping paint and slinging slop during the 80's after enlisting to be an F-14 pilot after watching Top Gun?  I am certain this movie will have the same impact on recruiting.

As the glorification of war seemed to be reaching its pinnacle, a SEAL was killed and sort of changed the atmosphere in the theater.  I don't want to ruin the end of the movie, but I greatly appreciated the sobriety that the movie ended with.  It was hard to watch.  Flashbacks of my friend's funerals came back in living color.  While painful to watch, I was glad because this movie ended in reality.  We live in a time when reality is blurred by television, movies, and video games.  The good guys don't always survive the impossible.  I hope the ending of this movie will filter some future candidates who have no business going.

War is horrible as it decimates lives.  Unfortunately, evil is real.  We need warriors who will stand and defend the weak--this truth will remain until Christ returns.  (For more on my thoughts on combat see my most read post on "Reacting to Osama Bin Laden.")  If you saw this movie, enjoyed it, and are compelled to thank a SEAL, I would encourage you to make a donation to the SEAL Foundation which exists to serve the Naval Special Warfare Community.


Barry said...

Thanks, Gunnar. I didn't want to be among the multitudes who asked for your opinion. I look forward to seeing the movie.

JB said...

Thank you for your service, then and now.

Robert said...

Outstanding review, you don't give yourself enough credit, good - thorough and fair review.

I too was concerned about the reaction the audience would have, though I was not a member of any team or even a vet, I do understand and appreciate their sacrifice and the need for some committed, willing souls to do what they do. I was especially concerned about how the public would behave, as I saw the movie in LA LA land (Los Angeles), but was VERY pleasantly surprised when the whole theatre issued, respectful, but enthusiastic applause at the end of the last reel... many in the audience, including yours truly, were misty eyed to say the least.

As the others stated before me - Thank you for your service as a TEAMs member and as a Pastor.

God Bless

Eliezer said...

Mee too I am not a SEAL or member of any special forces Elite Team I am just a Soldier, when I saw the movie I felt inside me that I was part of the action, and part of the TEAM. This movie shows up that we have to be aware and protect our nation because we dont know when or where they are gonna strike again. GOD BLESS OUR US ARMED FORCES AND OU PEOPLE

Nathan said...

Thank you for your insight into this movie and from one veteran to another thank you. I will never claim to be something that I'm not. I'm just a grunt from the Army and I do appreciate your perspective that you bring to this movie and your point of view.

Anonymous said...

I am not a member of any SF unit, but I am a soldier. I recently returned from Afghanistan where I served as a combat medic. In my time there we lost several good men and women. Many who I knew well. I dreaded Act of Valor because the commercials made it look like another Hollywood Hooah fest. Just a bunch of action and no real attempt to make it true to what the military is about. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was, in fact, very well done. Like the movie We Were Soldiers, it shows the military (In Act of Valors case the Seal Team) doing what they do best. Getting the job done with out all the Hollywood mush thrown in. The movies aren't full of crying soldiers who can't get their lives back together and feel so morally compromised they can't stand it. It doesn't center around all the military personnel hating the war and hating themselves. While many struggle with PTSD in some form or another, it is not to the extent that Hollywood portrays it. They way they protray it, it's almost insulting. The American People's concept of war has been greatly skewed by the Media, movies, and video games such as Modern Warfare, Battlefield, and Gears of War. I have nothing against those games, I play them on occasion, but people don't realize that they aren't real life. When I came back, I was asked to speak to some of my brother's high school classes, and I can't even count the number of kids who asked me how real it was compared to their video games or the movie Hurt Locker. In war there are no second chances. And in war, the good guys don't always come through impossible odds unscathed. When your buddy is kiled in combat he or she doesn't just respawn and wait for you back at your FOB. Anywho, I'm rambling. Act of Valor was surprisingly well done. Thank you for your many years of service to your country and God Bless the USA.

Michelle said...

I attended the movie hoping it would portray what my younger brother went through as a SEAL. The beginning of the movie reflected several things I had heard of: parachuting from planes, the water and boat scenes, the precision involved, etc. Difficult to watch the horrors of war, the sacrifices made not just to our Country, but one SEAL to another.
A weekday early afteroon showing was almost sold out. The young men in front of me did not think to remove their hats. I wondered if they would be disrespectful of the scenes portrayed. The movie ended, an emotional rollercoaster. Very sobering and interesting to note most of the audience did not leave, but sat for several minutes, absorbing what they just viewed.
Gunnar, so proud of you and thank you! You are a wonderful man.