THE ART OF SURREPTITIOUS MAYHEM
If you like non-stop, relentless action, portrayed with realism seldom seen, don’t miss Act of Valor, the new movie about and starring navy SEALs, the navy’s Sea, Air, and Land special forces teams.
There’s a type of man tougher than others. He’s not afraid to confront danger and death. Or he seeks that challenge, probably to test himself, maybe for the thrill, maybe both. He pushes himself beyond what others can endure. He is tested and becomes one of the rare ones admitted to a special unit of warfare and forms a bond with those like him that is so strong he will actually die to protect fellow members (something a SEAL did a few years ago). And he is quick and smart. He has to be or he’ll die. Even so, more than should die in spite of their acumen. He is a scientist of war and combat, an artist of surreptitious mayhem.
That’s what this movie is about. Thankfully, we have men like this. They are needed in the dark corners of this badly going globe. They are not palookas or savages, as the mainstream media, clueless as to what a warrior really is, likes to portray. As the film reveals, they are ordinary men with families, or hopes of families, but extraordinary in their radiated determination. They come from all over - New York City or a farm in Kansas, to name two in the movie. It, in an innovation, uses real SEALs as most of the actors. Producer-directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, former Hollywood stuntmen, didn’t feel actors could perform the incredible action.
Contrary to early elitist-media reviews, individual SEALs can also adequately parlor act – although that requirement, in this film, is secondary. There aren’t a lot of soliloquies or pouty-mouthed emotional scenes – mostly just fleeting moments that move the action. There’s little bravado. Act of Valor was written by Kurt Johnstad, the author of 300, the stark rendering of ancient Spartan defense in the Battle of Thermoplylae. About the SEALs, Johnstad told Variety (Dec 2, 2011), “They have a certain code…You show up, work hard and be humble.” None of the SEALs in the movie are credited.
Unlike most films that begin with a bang and dwindle (the reason, I believe, because that’s what first occurred to the writer and sparked the film but it’s hard to keep that momentum going), this one begins relatively tamely with the set up to the first mission. It’s Latin America. A doctor working covertly for the CIA is abducted. The SEALs must rescue her from brutal captors – and I do mean brutal. Water-boarding is Sunday School fare compared to what these monsters do to get information. The “extraction” is unbelievable in its choreography, use of military resources, stealth skill of the SEALs, and ultimate cheer factor except – that’s only the beginning. There’s a much worst threat that the team uncovers as a result of the extraction and consequently must thwart.
Without giving it away, it involves the US, Mexico, and our porous borders. And as the SEALs mount and execute a courageous plan against a cunning and ruthless Islamic terrorist in league with drug cartels, one can’t help but wonder how long that border is going to remain open before a real catastrophe results. And, secondly, why we just don’t let the SEALs go into Mexico – they operate covertly - and eliminate the evil that grows there every day? The answer, of course, lies with administrations, like our current one, which, incredibly, doesn't see or care about the threat, or worse, sees it as a boon to its political power.
Regardless, this movie shows how real special forces covert action is mounted and executed – for instance, the Ben Ladin kill. It is much more startling and convincing than all the special effects and superhero pap that generally is turned out by Hollywood. This is the way it is really done. These are the people who really do it. You’ll rest a little easier in the knowledge of their expertise, execution – and, yes Mainstream Media – their humanity. It was Michael A. Monsour, a SEAL, who gave his life for his fellow SEALs when a grenade was thrown amidst his team as they fought in Iraq. That action is recalled in Act of Valor in another way. The movie itself is fitting tribute to Monsour and all the other special forces warriors who have died in anonymous – a word little known in fame-seeking Hollywood - service to their country.