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Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
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'Act of Valor:' Where's the Police Version?

"Act of Valor" is a great movie, not for its acting or even its action, but for honoring America's warriors.

March 06, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: Relativity Media
Photo: Relativity Media

For a movie buff, I don't do a lot of movie reviews. Probably because deep down inside I hate Hollywood (Cue Darth Vader voice: "The disconnect in this one is strong."). But when I find a movie that doesn't make me feel like I need to shower afterward and is worthy of recommendation, well then I feel compelled to comment.

And so, a few words about "Act of Valor."

I suspect that most of you have heard of the film, and more than a few have seen it, as it has been doing well at the box office. But for those who require it, a little background:

"Act of Valor" was filmed over the course of two years and features actual U.S. Navy SEALs playing, more or less, themselves. As some are still active, they are identified in the credits sans surnames. You can tell which of the characters on-screen are SEAL members by the fact that they're in incredible shape, know what they're doing in the action scenes, and can't act their way out of a paper bag when things aren't blowing up.

But you don't watch a movie like this for the performances. And somehow I don't think these full-time warriors and part-time thespians are losing any sleep knowing that they won't be facing off against Sean Penn and Tim Robbins at next year's Oscars.

Now it's been noted that the film has a marginal plot: terrorists attempting to insinuate 16 suicide bombers into the country via Mexico. So do most action movies. The purpose of the plot in this movie is to provide a foundation for several action-filled vignettes.

I have seen gossamer-thin plots plastered onto many lesser Hollywood productions whose politically correct credentials ensured favorable reviews where none were objectively warranted. And if a thinly plotted movie is the only way to get these acts of heroism on screen, so be it.

The film has also been criticized as a recruiting vehicle for the U.S. Navy. First of all, Hollywood was not concerned about making "Top Gun," the single greatest Navy recruiting commercial ever made. Secondly, most Hollywood movies make the military look monstrous, not heroic. So maybe "Act of Valor" helps balance the scales, as there are not many Frank Capras stepping up today to make our military forces look good. At least the film touches upon legitimate concerns in a credible manner, generally abstains from the over-the-top jingoism of some of its celluloid forefathers, is entertaining, and leaves no question as to who's wearing the white hats (OK, green camo hats).

The SEALs wearing those green camo hats embody attributes worthy of emulation, both in their personal lives, as portrayed on screen, and in their disciplined adherence to their cause and one another. Small things, like a team leader's strict adherence to protocol when you know he'd prefer to be in the fight, serve as reminders of the need for discipline during engagements, be they of a military or patrol nature. The film also shows how critical it is to discriminate between friend and foe and get good target acquisition in a firefight. Finally, the team's leaders are shown to have the brains to make contingency plans.

For me, the film had an ancillary benefit, too. It opens and closes with the reading of a letter. Whoever wrote that bookend letter artfully summed up the nature of men who venture into harm's way on our behalf and provided a template by which young men and women can live honorable and rewarding lives. If I had any say in the school system, the damn thing would be required reading. But since I don't and it ain't gonna be, I took my 11-year-old and was glad I did. Like many of the men that exited the theater pretending they didn't have tears in their eyes, he did, too. He "got" it.

"Act of Valor" reminds us that there will always be those who will go above and beyond the call of duty and that, Nietzschean philosophy aside, there are areas where the divide between good and evil is clearly marked. Are they few? Yes. But so are the number of films that honor our warriors.Those that do deserve to be subsidized.

If you've been on the fence about seeing "Act of Valor," I hope that you will plop down your 10 bucks and do so. Maybe if "Act of Valor" is a hit,  they'll make more movies that honor the sacrifice of the military instead of deriding our warriors.

And maybe, just maybe, somebody can make a movie that honors our own profession. How about it, producers of "Act of Valor?" How about a cop action movie starring real cops?

Tags: Military-related, Officer Heroism, Cops In Movies


Comments (21)

Displaying 1 - 21 of 21

Donald @ 3/7/2012 1:01 PM

Great movie. I've never seen a movie end and people leave where EVERYONE was completely silent. I think I must have had a piece of popcorn salt in my eyes at the end... yeah, that must have been what it was. I'm glad you took your son. www.IfItHitsTheFan.com

Dan @ 3/8/2012 6:16 PM

I went and saw it on opening weekend. As a proud US Navy Veteran and Security Contractor there was no way I was gonna miss it. To be honest I never really noticed the less than perfect acting alot of people have talked about. What I did notice was that I didn't exit the theater telling my wife about all the bad or severly incorrect tactics. Mag changes were done at accurate times, the will to stay in the foght for your comrades no matter how banged up or shot up you are. HooYah US NAVSPECWAR!

vinojason @ 3/8/2012 6:58 PM

Hey Mr. Twain reincarnated, it's your friend from up north. For reasons your are aware I will not be watching as it hits too close to home. Thanks for your review and I wish all the boys still active fair winds and following seas

Dean Scoville @ 3/8/2012 7:04 PM

Hey, Jason. I am sorry that you won't be seeing it (at least soon), but understand your posture. In any event, it is great to hear from you. Again, a most sincere thanks for your service then...and now. Dean

Frank @ 3/8/2012 7:38 PM

You have President JFK to thank for these warriors. JFK was the person who insisted on having warriors like the SEAL's and Green Berets. They been around for years and never really got any recognition. Forty years ago they were all baby killers! The Vietnam Vet was drug induced baby killer. Today the vets get hand shakes and a smile at the airport instead of being spit on. My have times changed and for the better!

TripWire @ 3/8/2012 7:43 PM

I haven't seen it yet but after reading your article I will be seeing it this weekend, even though it is about the Seals it should be good (lol, a little interservice rivalry). I've seen the promos and it does look better than the average war movie, hopefully this movie is more realistic than what we've seen before.

Det. Sgt., Chaplain and f @ 3/8/2012 8:54 PM

I took my local Fellowship of Christian Peace Officer group to see Act of Valor tonight (special group event), including a Vietnam vet and retired Fed. officer who served as a Navy Frogman -- forerunner's of modern SEALs. It is a powerful film and while certainly not in the same vein as Courageous (a great police movie), it will provide for great discussion as we explore a biblical view of being God's ordained "ministers for good and a terror againt evil (Romans 13:1-7).
Det. Sgt. and Chaplain M.C. Williams
Director, www.TheCenturionLawEnforcementMinistry.org
Vice President, Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers -- USA (www.FCPO.org).

Laura @ 3/8/2012 8:56 PM

I was on the fence about seeing it. Going to have to scrape together a few bucks and see it. Haven't been to the movies in ages. Usually wait to it to come out on DVD. But since I am prior Army & Army Reserves now I have to go!

Morning Eagle @ 3/8/2012 11:28 PM

Thanks for reviewing this Dean. I too have been wondering if I should spend the money since as you know, I am a former LEO and a retired Professional Soldier and as such have very little faith that anything produced by Hollywood would accurately portray our military or police favorably and almost never go to any kind of movie anymore. I will go see this one, and take tissues so in case something gets in my eyes I will be prepared.

Tom Ret @ 3/8/2012 11:56 PM

This is no rambo movie but a depiction of the professional operator in the
Seals in plausible scenarios.

Dean Scoville @ 3/9/2012 12:05 AM

Hey, it's my favorite Washington State retiree! Really glad to see that you're going to take it in (especially since the last film you probably saw at the movies was probably "Tombstone" :). I still get a little choked up thinking about "Act of Valor" because it affords you the opportunity to see the kind of heroism for which Medals of Honor have actually been awarded, as opposed to having to settle for the usual thirty-second summation that begrudgingly gets tacked on to the end of the six o'clock newscast. But sneak in some popcorn - it's that kind of flick. That goes for you too, TripWire and Laura.

Trigger @ 3/9/2012 5:17 AM

Maybe Congress and the President will make more cuts in the defense budget to cut back on these Professionals and Army SF, after all aren't we trying to be everybodys "friend"........excuse me I just threw up!!

Incendiary @ 3/9/2012 6:53 AM

Although I would never compare Law Enforcement to the extreme professionals of the SEAL teams; I would love to see a similar movie about SWAT. As a tactical operator, I am constantly aware of our protocol for the priority of life...placing the value of the hostage/victim above our own. I feel a strong sense of honor regarding my profession and an ineffable kinship among SWAT operators. I haven't yet seen Act of Valor; however, I imagine it captures the same elements of SWAT's close-knit fraternity. A movie would afford the public a glimpse of the pride we feel. We are certainly never portrayed as heros in the media.

Banks @ 3/9/2012 7:21 AM

I took my son (13) as well. He knows he isn't allowed to see rated R movies, but this was one exception I was happy to make. He got it also. We have talked about it every day since and the way of life that is emboldened in this film is a great role model for our children. They need to know why we do what we do. Sometimes a visual aid like this one really helps.

djhaussler @ 3/9/2012 7:28 AM

I had 13 Navy Seals in my Airborne class back in '83 (43rd Company). Never have I seen a more disciplined group of warriors when it comes to the mission at hand. Thank God they're on our side. Can't wait to see the movie. Great "review" Dean.

Jason Der @ 3/9/2012 8:44 AM

I'm a Canuck, not American. But I felt compelled to take my teenage son all the same. When I left the theater with a tear in my eye my son asked, "What's wrong?" I smiled and said, "Nothing. That could quite possibly the best movie I've ever seen."

Going to the movies are something we do regularlly. So as we talked about it on the drive home I wanted to make sure, as always, that he got the message about what we saw. He did. He said, "Now if my friends ask me why you put on that uniform and do that job I can tell them 'just go see the movie and you'll understand.'"

My boy. :)

Mike V. @ 3/10/2012 4:44 AM

I too saw it opening weekend and thought it was a powerful movie. Courageous was in a similar vein. . As these films do well, like you, I hope it opens the door for more like them. Films that stress commitment, honor, faith and duty are in short supply.

TripWire @ 3/10/2012 6:41 PM

I just got back from seeing Act of Valor and I would agree that it was a great movie with an exiting, plausable storyline. The action was realistic and intense and the weapons and tactics seemed realistic and believable. The acting was good for actual Seals but I really wasn't emotionally invested in the characters as much as I think I could have been had they spent some more time developing the characters before the action started. Even though my last deployment was four years ago some scenes hit a little too close to home for me, especially at the end (spoiler alert) when Rourke jumps on the grenade and Chief Dave gets hit. I got to admit that I did tear up during the funeral scene and the pictures and the music during the credits were very moving. We need more war movies like this that show vets returning from deployment living normal well adjusted lives instead of the steriotypical crazed maniacs that usually end up committing violence or abusing drugs and alcohol that are in most movies. I'll probably add it to my collection when it comes out on video and I would recommend it.

Dean Scoville @ 3/12/2012 7:01 PM

I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Tripwire. Thanks for letting us know :)

Matt @ 3/13/2012 12:51 PM

I took my 21 year old son to see Act of Valor and at the end of it he said, "If that doesn't make you feel like a man, nothing does!" At first I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but the more I thought about it I realized he was right. That is the kind of movie that should fire up the desire in the true sheepdogs to have been in the fray with those SEALs. To be doing "God's Work" is what we LEOs have been called to do, just as it is every military warrior's calling. If the story in the movie had been a real scenario and the terrorists had gotten into this country, who would have had to deal with them? Local and Federal LEOs because the fight got brought to us and we would have had to stand with our military brothers and sisters to deal with it. I thank God we have fighters in the Armed Forces willing to stand watch in foreign lands while we take care of their families here.

Brian @ 3/29/2012 9:21 PM

I saw the movie with a some SEALS, retired and active. I liked it as far as war movies go. Their insight about the movie scenes was that they were pretty acurate, for what they can show in a movie (excpept the one with the suicide bomber about to hit the button, they should have shot instead of run!) The technology and weapons were accurate, although catching the body in the water was a little far fetched. They had to add some "Hollywood" for the layperson. The one thing they all agreed on, although they appreciate the attention and praise, they hate it! The SEALS "were" a secret ops unit, until our current adminstration bastardized them after killing Osama. Their feeling was that their job, their lives, their missions, were a lot safer without all the hoopla. The movie actually gives up some of their tactics (remote planes, room entry techniques, sniper techniques, etc). Sure, it may help enlistment, but they weren't hurting before all the publicity (Obama, movies, cable shows, etc). These men are some of the Country's most patriotic, bravest and toughest soldiers this Country has ever seen, yet very humble. Their work is much different than that of a police officer, praise and attention is good for the cops, buts it not making their jobs any easier.

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