A storm of controversy is brewing over this weekend’s No. 1 box office hit “Act of Valor,” with critics charging it gives away military secrets and worrying it puts American sailors in danger – while fans of the film are hailing it as honoring to the military and exposing dangers the mainstream media refuses to admit.
“Act of Valor,” which grew from a military recruitment film into a blockbuster action movie and was overseen in production by the Naval Special Warfare unit, was based on real operations of America’s Navy SEALs. Actual SEALs even starred in the film, giving it a dose of realism, even if critics have largely panned the sailors’ acting skills.
Reviews of the film have ranged from the dismissive – Las Vegas Weekly called it a “simplistic, one-sided … recruitment video” – to the glowing: Kurt Schlichter of Big Hollywood praised its action and “real emotion,” while WND’s Drew Zahn called it “a fantastic film and the kind of movie American patriots are certain to appreciate.”
But with the reviews have come criticisms that the film’s realism, for example, goes too far.
The Christian Science Monitor reports the Pentagon has been fielding calls from concerned congressional staffers wondering whether the movie might reveal sensitive tactics.
Retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught, a former Army Delta Force commander, went even further at a special operations conference earlier this month, publicly blasting Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of United States Special Operations Command and a SEAL himself, for making media darlings out of the SEALs.
“Since the time when your wonderful team went and drug bin Laden out and got rid of him … they’ve been splashing all of this all over the media,” Vaught said. “Now I’m going to tell you, one of these days, if you keep publishing how you do this, the other guy’s going to be there ready for you, and you’re going to fly in and he’d going to shoot down every d— helicopter and kill every one of your SEALs.
“Now, watch it happen,” he continued. “Mark my words: Get the h— out of the media.”
McRaven, however, insists the film does not give away military secrets.
“Nothing we’re displaying in there tips our sensitive tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said. “The film company that produced this had a very collaborative effort with the Navy.”
Hollywood reporter David L. Robb, whose book “Operation Hollywood” criticizes the military’s influence in moviemaking, told the Washington Post he was worried about the use of active SEALs in the film.
“Believe me, it won’t be long before their names come out,” he said. “Somebody’s going to know who these guys are, and their identities are going to be compromised.”
Ken Robinson, a terrorism and national security analyst and former special forces soldier expressed similar concerns to the Los Angeles Times.
“A movie is a sword that cuts both ways,” Robinson said. “It shines a light on very brave, capable Americans. On the other hand, any time you crack open a door and give someone an insight into who you are, you give them an advantage.”
McRaven addressed the question at an industry conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month: “We’re conscious of the fact that there are active-duty Navy SEALs here. I can tell you they all volunteered. There’s no concern on their part about their individual [safety] or the security of their families.”
Rear Adm. Dennis Moynihan, the Navy’s chief spokesman also explained, “There was a series of initiatives we launched to try to increase the number of SEALs we have in the Navy . … This film project was one of those initiatives.
He continued, “The SEALs looked at that from a security perspective, and they decided it was a risk worth taking [in light of] the recruiting imperative.”
Exposing our true enemies?
Controversy is also arising over the storyline itself, which defies the PC police in positing that not only are Islamic extremists feverishly working to kill Americans, but they’re also planning to slip through America’s porous border with Mexico to bring in weapons of mass destruction.
The heroic SEALs of “Act of Valor” are initially assigned to extract a CIA operative from captivity, only to discover that she had stumbled upon a network of high-tech arms dealers working with European Muslims to smuggle newly developed suicide vests into the U.S. These new vests are specifically designed to kill thousands, dwarf 9/11 in impact and cripple the American economy.
And while pundits in the U.S. debate the role of Islam in terror, call for more open borders and generally downplay the danger of terrorism on American soil, “Act of Valor” unapologetically portrays Muslims recruiting non-Arab women to wear the vests and smuggling them through tunnels from Mexico to cities all over the U.S. And in “Act of Valor,” disaster is averted with only seconds to spare by our brave men and women in uniform.
In fact, Schlichter’s review insists “Act of Valor” portrays a “moral clarity” in the war on terror that Hollywood refuses to accept.
“Let me clue you in, Tinseltown,” Schlichter writes, “‘Act’ is an unapologetically pro-military movie that doesn’t have to pretend that the greatest threat to America is space aliens. It’s got action – holy cow, does it have action. It’s got emotion – real emotion, not that hacky ’emotional conflict’ cookie cutter crap that your screenwriting seminars push. And it’s got this thing called ‘moral clarity.’
He continues, “There’s no bogus back story to the villains about how Americans were mean to them, or how their daddies didn’t hug them enough or how global warming destroyed their petting zoo. … The jihadi/drug dealing villains in ‘Act’ murder little kids with car bombs. They use power drills to torture women. They want to butcher Americans here in our country. Just like in real life. Except – and this is key – ‘Act of Valor’ isn’t afraid to say so. You are. Evil corporations, neo-Nazis, little green men – you’ll have anyone as the villain except the real villains who we are really at war against today.
“But the American people see through it,” he concludes. “They know who the real enemy is. And, moreover, they love our military and our troops.”
The trailer for “Act of Valor” can be seen below: