'Act of Valor' Review: Real Navy SEALs Hammer Home Heroism

'Act of Valor' Review: Real Navy SEALs Hammer Home Heroism

“Act of Valor,” the based-on-real-events film featuring active duty Navy SEALs, follows a Navy SEAL team as they travel around the world, tracking a developing terrorist plot from South America, to Africa, and finally to the US-Mexico border.

The choice to use actual SEALs rather than actors is proved wise all over again with repeat viewings. “Act of Valor,” out today on Blu-ray and DVD, is a very moving film filled with action and suspense, paying reverent homage to our armed forces.

Aside from beautiful copies of the movie itself, the real attractions in this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack are the special features. In the Directors’ Introduction, directors Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy tell us how the Navy approached their production company about doing a project featuring stories about Navy SEALs, and it was only after spending time with SEALs and their families that Waugh and McCoy became convinced that they needed the real SEALs and the real families for the movie.

Waugh and McCoy are obviously awed by the Navy families they met, and insisted repeatedly that there was never a question in their minds, only real SEALs could bring the complexity and emotion and discipline they wanted to the screen. The phrase, “An actor couldn’t do what we wanted,” popped up more than once. It was a stroke of genius, and a brave move to cast people untrained before the camera in a scripted role. Part of what makes “Act of Valor” so impactful is witnessing, in action, the physical and emotional discipline of actual SEALs.

Speaking of discipline, one of the featurettes shows how many of the action scenes (perhaps all of them, they don’t say) were shot with live ammunition rounds, not blanks, to make everything as real as possible for the SEALs, actors and audience. That might sound harrowing to those of us in the civilian world – and the film crew was obviously out of their element – but I’m sure the SEALs appreciated it. My husband has told me before that live-fire exercises are important for testing the true measure of your unit’s discipline and battle-readiness. It’s impossible to replicate a person’s reaction to real bullets using blanks. This was another brave choice on the part of the filmmakers and speaks to their desire to bring as much authenticity to the screen as possible.

My favorite special feature is the series of interviews with the stars of the movie, the SEALs. We’re only given their on-screen pseudonyms, but they speak about their personal real-life experiences. We learn about how they grew up and what brought them to the SEALs, how they feel about their battle buddies and their missions. They tell us the best missions are the ones we’ll never hear about, because the nature of their job is to be invisible. With the rare Osama bin Laden-type scenario exception, if they did their job well, the world will not know about it. That’s important to bear in mind while watching “Act of Valor.” The missions they execute on-screen are all based on real missions we never knew happened. These men and others like them have protected our welfare more times than we will ever know.

There are several other featurettes about the SEALs, director’s commentary, deleted scenes, as well as others. It’s a treasure trove of features for someone who wants to learn more about the SEALs in the movie, the heart of the production team, and the SEAL and military community in general. As well as a DVD version and Blu-ray version, each pack comes with a digital copy of “Act of Valor” you can upload onto any media device for easy on-the-go viewing.

Plus, every purchase of the combo pack donates $1 to Operation Homefront, an outstanding organization that provides financial aid to families of deployed service members and Wounded Warriors.

Note: I am currently hosting a giveaway for two free copies of “Act of Valor” on my blog. Visit my blog for a chance to win!