Act of Valor
|Act of Valor|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike McCoy
|Produced by||Mike McCoy
|Written by||Kurt Johnstad|
|Music by||Nathan Furst|
|Editing by||Siobhan Prior
|Distributed by||Relativity Media|
|Running time||110 minutes|
Act of Valor is a 2012 American action film directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, and written by Kurt Johnstad. It stars Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sánchez, Nestor Serrano, Emilio Rivera, and active duty U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. The film was released by Relativity Media on February 24, 2012.
In the Philippines, a terrorist kills the U.S. ambassador, his son, and dozens of children, using a vehicle-borne IED at an elementary school. The mastermind, a Chechen terrorist named Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle), escapes to a training camp in Indonesia.
In Costa Rica, two CIA operatives, Walter Ross (Nestor Serrano) and Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sánchez) meet to consolidate intelligence about their target, a drug smuggler named Mikhail "Christo" Troykovich. Christo's men kill Ross and capture Morales, who is imprisoned in a jungle compound and tortured.
At Coronado, the members of Bandito Platoon, SEAL Team Seven are at home. Lieutenant Rorke (Rorke Denver) confides to Chief Dave that his wife is pregnant and has the entire team spend time together with their families until their next deployment. SEAL Team Seven, consisting of Rorke, Dave, Wiemy, Mikey, Ray, Sonny, and Ajay, is then deployed to Costa Rica to exfiltrate Morales.
The seven Navy SEALs insert into the jungle via HALO and hold position outside the compound all night. At dawn, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCCs) are inserted down the river from the compound on-board Special Operations Craft - Riverine (SOC-R) and deploy a Raven drone that identifies the guards and a large group of enemies camped down the road. The SEALs approach the compound, hear Morales being tortured, and decide to enter the compound early. Rorke and Weimy, the team sniper, provide cover for the other five, led by Dave, who conduct room-clearing, engaging several enemy guards. SEAL operative Mikey is shot in the eye, blinding him and knocking him unconscious. The SEALs extract Morales, escaping with her and recovering a cell phone full of the information she had gathered. However, the gunfight alerts the enemy quick reaction force down the road, who drive toward the camp. The SEALs commandeer an enemy truck and exfiltrate. The hot pursuit forces them to revert to a tertiary extraction point where the SOC-R boats extract the team and neutralize the enemy pursuit with miniguns.
Cristo and Shabal, who are revealed to have been childhood friends, meet in Kiev. Cristo knows the CIA is watching him and informs Shabal that subordinates will complete their project. Shabal is enraged, but he goes to the factory that Cristo specified where bomb vests are being assembled. These use plastic explosives and ceramic ball bearings to work like an enormous claymore mine. They can evade metal detectors and are thin enough to be worn under any clothing without attracting attention.
On the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, Senior Chief Petty Officer Miller, the operations officer of the SEAL team, informs Rorke that Mikey will survive but has lost his sight in one eye. In addition, the intelligence they recovered confirms that Shabal and Cristo were working together. Shabal, an old-school Muslim terrorist, seeks to bring jihad to the U.S., while Cristo is not merely a drug dealer, but a smuggler, with routes and contacts for smuggling people into the U.S. Two of the SEALs, Ajay and Ray, are sent to Somalia, where an arms transfer involving Shabal is taking place. The remaining SEALs, comprising Rorke, Dave, Sonny and Weimy, stay in the U.S. in case the terrorists make it in. Miller himself has been reassigned to SEAL Team Four, hunting for Cristo somewhere on the oceans. Lieutenant Rorke gives a letter to Dave in case he is killed.
The two SEALs parachute from a C-130 transport plane off the coast of Somalia to rendez-vous with a submarine equipped with a Dry Deck Shelter and they board a SEAL Delivery Vehicle that they use to reach the coast. They confirm the presence of Shabal and sixteen terrorists and identify his plane. They track the plane to an island off Baja California, where the team stages an assault. They successfully attack and secure the island, killing eight terrorists. Rorke is nearly killed by an RPG that strikes his vest directly in the chest but does not detonate.
Meanwhile, in the South Pacific, Cristo is hiding aboard his yacht, guarded by gunboats and mercenaries. SEAL Team Four identifies the yacht with satellite imaging and deploys several helicopters and gunboats. They quickly kill the guards and capture Cristo. Senior Chief Miller conducts his interrogation. Threatened with permanent separation from his family along with other implied sanctions, Cristo reveals his connection with Shabal and his plans to have his martyrs detonate their vests at strategic points throughout the U.S., causing a panic and doing economic damage surpassing that following the September 11 attacks. But Christo says he is powerless to stop the attack.
The SEALs are informed that not all of their targets were neutralized and that half, including Shabal, are en route to the U.S. via tunnels underneath a milk factory. They are ordered to link up with Mexican Special Forces and neutralize the remaining targets. U.S. Marines relieve the SEALs, who then travel on to Mexico meeting the Mexican Special Forces. The Mexican leader informs the SEALs that the assault will be extremely dangerous, as the smugglers are supported by the well-armed local drug cartel, and that a "Black Hawk Down"–style stalemate would have political consequences.
The SEALs and Mexican forces assault the factory, hiding in dump trucks. The combined forces cordon off the factory while Rorke, the Mexican officer, Chief Dave, Sonny, and several other SEALs led by Weimy clear most of the factory. The Mexican officer is wounded and the SEALs are nearly killed as the explosive vest of a suicide bomber detonates. As they reach the tunnels, an enemy fighter drops an F1 fragmentation grenade into the room. Only Rorke sees the grenade land. Realizing his team cannot escape the room in time, he dives on the grenade and it detonates, severely wounding him. Dave pursues the terrorists alone, while Sonny tends to Rorke. Dave catches up to the terrorists as they try to escape through the tunnels, and shoots several of them as they flee into the entrance. After running out of ammo Dave draws his sidearm and pursues the remaining suicide bomber. Shabal, however, fires nearly thirty rounds from an AKM into Dave, gravely wounding him. Dave finds the energy and kills the final suicide bomber as he runs into the tunnel. Shabal approaches Dave and prepares to execute him but is intercepted and killed by Sonny.
At home, Rorke is given a military funeral with full honors. The SEALs pay their respects, punching the gold SEAL tridents that signify them as SEALs into Rorke's coffin. It is then revealed that Dave's narration throughout the movie was a written letter meant for Rorke's son, explaining the valor of the father he will never know, and ending with the poem "Live Your Life" by Tecumseh. The film ends with a dedication to every U.S. Navy SEAL killed in action since 9/11 along with a listing of their names as well as a photo montage of other everyday public servants (soldiers, police, firefighters etc.).
- Jason Cottle as Abu Shabal
- Rorke Denver as Lt. Rorke
- Alex Veadov as Cristo
- Roselyn Sánchez as Morales
- Nestor Serrano as Walter Ross
- Emilio Rivera as Sanchez
- Drea Castro as Recruit
- Keo Woolford as Recruit
- Thomas Rosales, Jr. as Cristo's RHM
- Marco Morales as Mexican SOF
- Ailsa Marshall as Lt Rorke's Wife
In 2007, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh of Bandito Brothers Production filmed a video for the Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen which led the U.S. Navy to allow them to use actual active duty SEALs. After spending so much time working closely with the SEALs, McCoy and Waugh conceived the idea for a modern day action movie about this covert and elite fighting force. As Act of Valor developed with the SEALs on board as advisors, the filmmakers realized that no actors could realistically portray or physically fill the roles they had written and the actual SEALs were drafted to star in the film. The SEALs will remain anonymous, as none of their names appear in the film's credits.
Relativity Media acquired the rights to the project on June 12, 2011 for $13 million and a $30 million in prints and advertising commitment. Deadline.com called it "the biggest money paid for a finished film with an unknown cast". The production budget was estimated to be between $15 million and $18 million.
Filming took place in Cambodia where an explosion was shot in Phnom Penh with 300 children as extras. Scenes were shot in San Diego at Blue Foot Bar and in a house in the North Park area. Other locations included Mexico, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Florida, and at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
The crew filmed at Navy training sites to provide realistic settings, such as a drug cartel base, a terrorist camp on an isolated island, and a smuggler's yacht.
Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut used Canon EOS 5D Mark II cameras with Zeiss ZE and Panavision Primo lenses. The cameras followed the SEALs' planned out missions in the film. Hurlbut used an 18mm Zeiss ZE mounted on the SEALs' helmets to capture their point of view. The 25mm Zeiss ZE was used to capture natural light coming through windows. The 21mm Zeiss ZE was used as a stake cam so a truck could drive over it. The Navy held final cut privileges in order to remove any frames to address security concerns and kept raw footage to use for real-life training and other purposes.
Act of Valor was scheduled to be released on February 17, 2012 in the U.S. to coincide with Presidents' Day, but was pushed back to February 24, 2012. The film was released in the UK and Ireland on March 23 as Act of Valour by Momentum Pictures.
The film opened with generally mixed to negative reviews. Based on 119 reviews, it received a 25% approval rating from professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 4.6/10 and the consensus saying, "It's undeniably reverent of the real-life heroes in its cast, but Act of Valor lets them down with a clichéd script, stilted acting, and a jingoistic attitude that ignores the complexities of war." Metacritic assigned the film an average rating of 40/100 based on 34 reviews.
However, despite the negative critical reaction, the film opened at #1 at the box office, earning $24,476,632 in its opening weekend from 3,039 theaters for an average of $8,054 per theater. Audience reaction was highly positive; moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the movie a very strong "A" grade, on an A+ to F scale. Based on 36,542 ratings, 80% of viewers said they "liked it" on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 4.1/5.
Many reviews, both positive and negative, have expressed praise for the action sequences while criticizing the plot and acting. Claudia Puig from USA Today, for example, said the action in the film is "breathtaking," but gave the film an overall negative review, in which she wrote that "the soldiers' awkward line readings are glaring enough to distract from the potency of the story." Similarly, Amy Biancolli from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Act of Valor is intended to wow audiences with high-test action while planting a giant wet kiss on the smacker of the U.S. military – and it scores at both tasks," but that, ultimately, "the film gets snagged by its own narrative convention." Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter had a similar opinion, stating, "Although the film has its undeniably immersive, convincing moments, the merging of dramatic re-creations and on-camera 'performances' proves less seamlessly executed than those masterfully coordinated land, sea and air missions." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half out of four stars, and complained that "we don't get to know the characters as individuals, they don't have personality traits, they have no back stories, they don't speak in colorful dialogue, and after the movie you'd find yourself describing events but not people."
Accusation of Antisemitism
The movie caused an outcry among viewers who saw the depicting of the Jihadists' financier, portrayed by actor Alex Veadov, as being Jewish as antisemitic.  Blogger Pamela Geller also criticized the movie for antisemitic subtext.
The scene in question involves the financier, Christo, being interrogated, and the interrogator identifying Christo as Jewish being an obvious conflict of interest with him funding fundamentalist Muslims who would plot against Jews in Israel.
Home video releases
Relativity Media released the film's soundtrack on February 21, 2012. It includes 10 songs by country music artists. The first cut on the soundtrack, Keith Urban's "For You", was released as a single. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
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