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“Act of Valor” raises a thorny question: Would YOU die for your country?

Last night I attended a private screening of the new film, “Act of Valor” which features real-life Navy SEAL operators in an almost documentary-like recreation of SEAL operations. The movie was even better than I expected, much more exciting and compelling than yet another Bourne-style action flick.

The deep family attachments of these men were highlighted, and in spite of my own previous associations with SEAL team members, even I didn’t consider that almost all of these guys are married, and most have children. The harsh reality that every time daddy “goes to work” he may not come home was pointed out with painful clarity.

Every one of the missions featured in the movie were based on missions that the SEAL teams have done in real life. Even the scene where a SEAL jumps on a grenade to save his squad was a recreation of an event in which a SEAL died doing just that. The only concession to art was that the missions, which in real life may have been spread out over years, were compressed into an hour and a half movie.

The authenticity was nothing short of breathtaking – not only were the tactics shown genuine, most of the scenes featured “live fire” sequences – they were shooting real bullets, not blanks. More importantly, no one will be able to watch this film without walking away with a profound appreciation for what these extraordinary men do for all of us, with minimal pay and, until now, mostly anonymously. The almost universal reaction I heard around me when the film ended (from men and women alike) was a softly exhaled “Wow….”

Unfortunately, some of the very people who would most benefit from seeing “Act of Valor” will likely avoid it. But based on the opening weekend box office, many people will see it. It was #1 at the box office in its opening weekend, grossing more than the next three films combined. If this continues, it will likely be one of the top films of the year.

Even more refreshing, “Act of Valor” is completely non-political – no veiled references to one political party or the other. There isn’t even a mention of who the President might be. So I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Academy Awards crowd even mentioning it, much less considering it for an award.

“The Hurt Locker” aside, the Hollywood elites of today generally prefer their “war movies” to be stories that portray America’s military in a negative light, as in “Jarhead” or the truly awful “Green Zone” – a barely disguised Left-wing propaganda film. 

“Act of Valor” reminds us all that there is only one reason that the rest of us can sit quietly in a Starbuck’s sipping our coffee, or sharing a beer with friends at the local sports bar, arguing over who the best quarterback is. Because the “crazy brave” in our military forces are out there in the darkness, ready to do whatever is necessary to keep us safe.

Which leads inexorably to the most nagging (and important)  question we are left to ponder after seeing “Act of Valor” – which is how many of us would have the courage to do anything close to what the SEAL teams do everyday, risk death to protect our country and our fellow citizens. Sadly, the final frame of the film might have the answer:

“Damn Few.”

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