So yesterday a few guys and I went to see “Act of Valor,” a movie about (and for) the Navy SEALs.
Quick review: I really enjoyed the movie, which certainly had flaws but was largely unapologetic about them, nor should it be apologetic about the flaws.
Spoilers after the break.
So the movie is basically a letter written to a soldier’s son by one of the soldier’s fellow troopers.
The movie opens with an introduction to Bandito Team, a set of SEALs with various roles; most are covered very lightly, with little character development.
They’re shadows, which fits: SEALs don’t play. They are dangerous. They are imperious. They aren’t open to examination, from others or themselves; they know who they are, and being open leaves them open to doubt, which – as they explain – leaves themselves open to failure.
And failure’s not an option.
After the introduction, we’re shown a set of CIA agents on the trail of a financier, a smuggler. The smuggler susses them out, and in the first hint that this movie’s pretty brutal, one of the agents gets killed and the other – a female doctor – gets hammered, captured, and tortured.
She doesn’t look good at all.
So the Banditos are dispatched to recover her; they form up and head off.
[aside]I am a civilian, too. But I know what these guys can do and what the results of discipline are… I think.[/aside]
It’s hard to imagine the level of drilling the SEALs go through to repeat everything, over and over again, until it’s right – and so their landing is “unrealistic” for most civilian audiences.
They actually go in earlier than anticipated to recover the agent – they hear her being tortured. (Her hands are having a drill applied, which was, um, not pleasant to hear. Thankfully, we didn’t see it.)
They retrieve the agent, with actual consequences – one soldier gets shot, and they retrieve his body with the agent, while the bad guys figure out their camp is being attacked and arrive en masse.
The chase that follows is tense and amusing, in a way; the soldiers are dispassionate the whole way, trying to determine if their fallen comrade is dead or not (“I can’t find a pulse,” while bullets are flying back and forth.)
The soldier comes to (which surprised me) and his first question: “Did we get the package?,” speaking of the whole reason they were there – which was meant to represent how dedicated those men were. Wounded, he only cared about the success of the mission.
The retrieval of those men was grimly amusing, supported by miniguns mounted on boats.
[aside]What’s really scary: the guns on the boats weren’t even the best miniguns. They were tiny. The ones mounted in gunboats are far more dangerous; they look like they’re shooting lasers, but that’s only because the tracers are coming so fast that they form what looks like a solid line… and the tracers are spaced out, one to every hundred bullets or so. And they push the platform they’re mounted on sideways.[/aside]
I’d never seen a minigun in action. They don’t sound like guns. They sound like fans. They would be absolutely no fun at all if you were on the wrong end of them.
The recovery leads to more tasks for the team, and more tasks, and more tasks. The shots are amazing, even though the characters seem faintly wooden (which fits, actually. The SEALs are not “open books.”)
The trail leads to a terrorist, a Chechen who’s attacking America to lessen support for Chechnya’s oppressors. As a result, he decides to wreck the world finances.
Without going into too much detail about how they find him (it’s pretty dramatic, although the pacing lacks some tension, I suppose), they… find him. And somehow survive, although one of the film’s main protagonists dies — in an act of valor, if you can imagine (leaping on a grenade to save his compatriots, which is definitely something that happened in real war.)
[aside]I’m not going to get into the psychology of terrorism.[/aside]
It’s a good movie, a fun movie to watch. It’s very (very) pro-America, of course, and it does lack some development of things of which I’d like to have seen the ending, but it’s a great movie to watch with a set of guys nonetheless.