Today marks the opening of a truly unique film, a throwback to the days when the US military was actively used for promotion in Hollywood. The desired result of the product was to shed a positive light on the US military, their families, and their worthwhile mission.
Recent years have tended to attempt to shy away from that notion and paint the military in less than complimentary terms (Redacted, 2007; Rendition, 2007, and even more high profile films like The Messenger, 2009 come to mind). And of course, all horror movies, no matter how schlocky or over the top, usually want to blame the pesky military for the problem (The Crazies, 2010 or The Mist, 2007).
The film I’m talking up today is Act of Valor. The basic premise is nothing unusual:
“When the rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative leads to the discovery of a deadly terrorist plot against the U.S., a team of SEALs is dispatched on a worldwide manhunt. As the valiant men of Bandito Platoon race to stop a coordinated attack that could kill and wound thousands of American civilians, they must balance their commitment to country, team and their families back home.” SOURCE: IMDB.
So what makes this film different from past Navy SEAL sagas like Navy SEALS (1990), Tears of the Sun (2003), or The Rock (1996)? The difference is that Act of Valor stars a group of active-duty Navy SEALs in a “powerful story of contemporary global anti-terrorism.” Inspired by true events, the film combines “stunning combat sequences, up-to-the minute battlefield technology and heart-pumping emotion!”
And that’s not the only actual military participation. You’ll also see CH-47E pilots and crew from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation regiment, Sailors and Marines from the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, and the crew of the submarine USS Florida.
How did such a project get off the ground? While the military will normally allow filmmakers to use actual footage in a Hollywood production (provided the film is not anti-military), such “real world” participation is unprecedented.
It all began in 2007 when Co-Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh were hired to produce a recruiting commercial for the Naval Special Warfare Command. The end result so impressed the Navy that they were willing to listen when the two came seeking support for their new concept years later.
US Navy CAPT Duncan Smith, Chief if Navy Special Ops Recruiting, got on board and helped get top brass approval. “We needed a vehicle that would allow us to tell the story of who we are – and who we are not – in an authentic way,” he explained in an interview with The Army Times, 20 February 2012.
Remember Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986)? You may laugh at its corniness, but recruiting stats indicate a 500% jump in the year following that film. I don’t expect that reaction to Act of Valor, but no doubt the Navy will be watching closely to see if a major film can still be used to recruit the best and brightest into military service.
I don’t know if this film will be a success or not and I have no idea of how good or bad it really is. But the fact that every military person in this film is an actual active duty patriot (the war scenes were shot during actual life fire training exercises) makes it a “must see” for me. And it may be the beginning of a new trend in film-making, with Hollywood actually helping promote the military rather than denigrating it. If you go see it, please drop a line here and let us all know what you thought.
For a look at the trailer, check it out here:
To find us, you must be good!
To catch us, you Must be quick!
To defeat us? You must be joking!