Movie Review

Act of Valor

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including some torture, and for language.

Reviewed by: Julia Webster
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Action Adventure Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
February 24, 2012 (wide—3,000+ theaters)
DVD: June 5, 2012
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Relativity Media

heroism, courage, bravery

balancing commitment to country, team and families

terrorism, terrorists

armies in the Bible

war

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Featuring: Alexander Asefa … Tower guard
Drea Castro
Jason Cottle
Aurelius DiBarsanti … Village Warrior
Timothy Gibbs … J.C. Palmer
more »
Director: Mike McCoy
Scott Waugh
Producer: Bandito Brothers
Jason Clark … executive producer
more »
Distributor: Relativity Media

“Real heroes. Real tactics. Real action. This is no game.”

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” –Ecclesiastes 4:12.

The strength of a cord of three strands is the essence of what comes to soldiers fighting wars together. “Act of Valor” is the story of men standing up for themselves, each other, their families, and their country with a fearlessness unmatched by most Americans. It is a unique film, in that it stars real-life, active-duty Navy SEALS as actors in the lead roles. In fact, the professional actors, such as Roselyn Sanchez as a CIA agent and Alex Veadov as the head of a drug cartel, have fairly minor roles and limited screen time. The main character in the film, however, is the special effects.

Directed by two movie stunt men, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, and written by Kurt Johnstad (“300”), “Act of Valor” provides plenty of explosive action, with a plot that is relatively easy to follow. The story centers around a military task force on a mission to defeat suicide terrorists about to enter the United States with a new bomb that can be hidden well. The jihadists have joined with a drug cartel, in order to smuggle the devices over the border, where they intend to detonate them in several large U.S. cities.

Using beautiful cinematography of site locations throughout the world, the SEALs perform many various operations, as they pursue their enemies. Following the personal story of the men as they perform their military duty brings the audience into the middle of the fray. “For You,” the film’s beautiful theme song, written and performed by Australian Keith Urban, reflects the story and the characters well. Using Jesus’ oft-quoted words from John 15:13: “No greater love has man, than to lay down his life for love,” the lyrics also voice the question undoubtedly in the hearts and minds of the men: “I wonder could I give my life, Could I make the sacrifice?” Throughout the story, as the men fight their battles selflessly, they vividly carry out Paul’s words from Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

The camaraderie and support the men have for each other is inspiring and very moving. Before leaving on their mission, the soldiers are seen spending time together with their friends and families. Two of the men are close friends; one of them is the father of five children and the other has just found out his wife is expecting their first child. The heart-wrenching partings depicted reflect the men’s feelings as they embark on their dangerous mission. They bring with them mementos of their brave soldier fathers’, remembering that “love is stronger than death.” (Song of Solomon 8:6)

Though the script is rather thin, the dialog is mainly used to lead from one action sequence to another, and film goers looking for excitement will not be disappointed. The cinematography and soundtrack help to create plenty of suspense between scenes of quiet stealth, daring raids, and heart-stopping rescues. There are also many spectacular shots of explosions and firefights. Viewers should be aware of scenes depicting graphic brutality, including some torture sequences. Unfortunately, even the SEALs can be murderous (“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins,” —Ecclesiastes 7:20). On the other hand, they are occasionally shown being humane to civilians and avoiding killing when they can.

The profanity in the film is in line with the military characters, and so is fairly heavy, though the misuse of the Lord’s name is limited to just a couple of times. In fact, by contrast, one shot shows the words “In God we Trust” written on a soldier’s helmet.

“Act of Valor” is a movie well worth seeing. For those who may have witnessed air shows, toured museums, or seen other demonstrations of the power of the U.S. military and displays of the state-of-the-art equipment used in the defense of our country and our allies around the world, “Act of Valor” will have the same qualities of showmanship. As Christians, though, we know the best and most important armor is the not made by man, but by God, as outlined in Ephesians 6:10-17.

The Navy SEALs, both the real men and the characters they portray in “Act of Valor” are certainly American heroes. We should be awed by and proud of them and thankful that these brave men continue to be “strong and courageous,” (Deuteronomy 31:6) as they fight diligently for our freedom.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I very much enjoyed this film. I highly recommend for mature Christians. Being a veteran myself, I appreciated the attention to detail and all the finely tuned nuances that made this film a realistic portrayal of what our soldiers do for us on a daily basis. The themes of self sacrifice and courage under fire come shining through the story. I also appreciated that the Islamic extremists were not watered down in any way. I do caution that this movie is for mature audiences. The violence is heavy and graphic, sometimes. There are also a couple scenes were a women is beaten and tortured by the antagonists. Foul language is also present—it is a movie about the military, after all. I would compare the violence and language to movies like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Black Hawk Down.” There is no sex or overt nudity in the film. There was one scene where a couple of females were on a yacht in bikinis.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jim, age 37 (USA)
Positive—“Act of Valor” is harsh, just as real life can be harsh. I saw the movie in a local theater and joined in the audience’s applause, afterward. My heart pounded long after the applause ended. I will definitely see the movie again. At times in “Act of Valor,” the humor is dark and obscenities are spoken. Since I heard worse while working in a hospital and later in a police records unit, the movie would not feel real without them. These days, I work in elementary schools (plenty of foul language there, too) where too many children idolize rock stars. They sing, “All we need is love.” I would rather the children looked up to the men and women “Act of Valor” portrays, those who serve in our military or as first responders.

The movie is too harsh for children, of course, but is a great antidote for the usual posturing and posing that passes for acting. I would take my own older teens to see it and talk about it afterward. After all, they need to know “greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (KJV) “Act of Valor” is a reminder that some of the peace I enjoy is still being bought with a price.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Julia H., age 57 (USA)
Positive—It’s a military movie, so expect some language. Otherwise, reminded me a lot of movies like “Black Hawk Down” and “Hurt Locker” (very real feeling). Additionally, and remarkably, in this film real Navy SEALs play the main roles. Very authentic and the main theme gets across very well. Aptly named movie. These men and women willing to pay the ultimate price and are ready to do violence on our behalf to protect our lives and freedom on an ongoing basis as threats against the U. S. Or others become a reality. Very sobering movie. Makes you thankful for the men and women that serve in all the armed forces.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Chris Kulig, age 43 (USA)
Positive—This is a movie I wish all the college age and older in my church would watch. The United States military is seen as opposing all that is evil and bringing justice to a broken world. Hollywood has not ruined this movie by casting doubt on our heroes nor making morality wishy washy. The Islamic extreme right is shown for what it is and not watered down.

There is some cussing, but I guarantee it is nothing worse than what your kids hear in school in one single day. The patriotic message makes one proud to live in America and will prompt a true respect for those who protect our freedom each day. I am a pastor and retired soldier. Dad, take your son and daughter to see this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rick, age 60 (USA)
Positive—“Act Of Valor” is a fictionalized account of real-life operations carried out by Navy SEALs, and as such, is well worth viewing to appreciate the sacrifices that the women and men in every branch of the military make every single day to protect this country and the liberties which have been endowed by our Creator; the which are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This movie plays out like a documentary, with real-life Navy SEALs playing the main characters, and only two or three professional actors. This is a hard film to see, but well-worth it and as good as “Schindler’s List” and “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.”

Biblically speaking, there is a lot of strong violence including some torture scenes and some strong language, consistent with a war movie. But there are worse movies out there (the 1983 “Scarface,” which contains over 200 uses of the f-word and incessant graphic violence, to name one) that kids have been exposed to (and quote, and say that it’s the best movie ever made; but that’s another story). If you can handle “Schindler’s List” and “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas,” you can certainly handle “Act Of Valor.” Every true American needs to see this movie, and thank the Lord God for the freedoms He hath given us. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, amen.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—D, age 26 (USA)
Positive—This movie was awesome! I almost didn’t see it because of the reviews with the cursing, but there wasn’t much cursing, at all. There were literally only about 10 curse words, where in rated R movies, normally, there are over 100 to 200. The acting was not the best, however the action kept you on the EDGE of your seat. Yes, there were some spots I had to close my eyes with the violence, but, overall, the violence wasn’t that bad either, knowing it was a military movie. Definitely worth seeing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Samantha, age 37 (USA)
Positive—I did like this movie, for the most part. It was nice to see a film where the soldiers fighting to protect our country were so obviously the heroes. There were a few f-words, but not enough to make me uncomfortable. The violence was enough to make one squeamish, but it could have been much worse.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kadie Jo, age 20 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I saw this film a week or two ago, so some of the details (how many uses of bad language, etc.) are eluding me now. But I do very clearly remember how amazingly impressive this movie is! Very Good! There is a great deal of violence; but the violence reflects the evil, and the fight against evil, that pervades this world. The actions of heroes are portrayed so beautifully. Not comic book heroes, but ordinary, flawed men whose main distinction is the choice they make to do what is right at all costs, to accomplish their mission, and to defend our country from great threat. They depict the strength of this choice. And it is a choice.

I would definitely recommend the film, and definitely caution that it is not for children, not even teens; I further caution that violent parts of the film are very hard to take at any age. But the strength of these brave men, the courage of their wives and families really demonstrates true heroism. If you want to see what “hero” really means, watch this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jen, age 50+ (USA)
Positive—While not a veteran myself, I’m the son of one, and, as such, I know what it’s like to see my dad go of to war. It’s hard, but without men like him willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, I would not be able to write this review. This film does have violence and language, but not nearly as much as other war movies, like “Black Hawk Down” or “Saving Private Ryan”. It’s all in line with real life in the military, and this movie is probably the most accurate depiction of military scenarios. What makes this movie great is that it shows real men and women who choose to kill to ensure that we have our freedoms. An issue so many choose to sweep under the rug for the sake of their own comfort, the fact that it is sometimes necessary to use violence to oppose evil, cannot be ignored, and this movie is a fitting tribute to these men. I highly recommend it, saw it several times in theaters, and watched it with my father, a retired chief petty officer, who got all misty eyed at several parts. Not for children or immature teens, but for any blue blooded American, a must see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Nate (an agnostic), age 25 (USA)
Positive—“Act of Valor” is an entertaining but disturbing movie that had me on the edge of my seat for its 110 minutes. The storyline and action is so realistic, I wondered how much of this sort of thing is happening today. I found actor Jason Cottle’s portrayal of a “radical” Muslim very convincing. As a Christian, I believe Islam will be an enemy in the last days, and it was disturbing to watch the Muslim mindset of disciples willing to die as suicide bomber’s glorifying death over life. Of interest to me was the invention of the explosive vest as a terrorist weapon undetected by metal detectors, which I can relate to as an Airport Screener.

I am surprised of the poor reviews this movie received, in general. Certainly the torture and killing in the movie was violent, hence it’s R classification, and there was a generous serving of American bravado and patriotism throughout the movie, but, as an Aussie, I am of the opinion that’s how the American military are and so this only added to the genuineness of the movie experience. For me, it was refreshing to see a military movie acted by people who knew what they were doing with genuineness, humility and camaraderie. The mark of a good movie is one you’ll watch again, and this one ticks the box for me. It goes on my shelf with “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Dam Buster’s.” I recommend it as a modern military action movie, but with some disturbing scenes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Martin C, age 42 (Australia)
Negative

none

Comments from young people
Positive—I went with my father and 6 other police officers the day it released in theaters, and each one of us agreed that this is one of the best movies of 2012. The movie-making quality is great, if not excellent, and the production’s morals do indeed reflect those of Jesus Christ and his teaching. Although this movie surpassed my standards, I recommend parents exercise caution before letting young kids view this movie. There is minor foul language, and the movie has several detailed gun-shot scenes, major battle scenes, and torture scenes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Austin Lampky, age 15 (USA)
Positive—It was amazing best movie I have ever seen! I don’t think it could of been cleaner for a realistic war movie. A lot of swearing in it, but if it’s going to be realistic, it’s gonna have a lot of swearing in it. No sex, sensuality or anything like that in it. Amazing movie—see it, but don’t take kids under 10 to see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Anthony, age 12 (USA)
Positive—“Act of Valor” was an amazing movie that puts family first. There was a lot of action and violence and many bad words. I believe you should see it, if you think you can handle it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mark, age 15 (USA)

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