The marketing pitch for Act of Valor, which opens in theaters today, is pretty simple: how can it get more real (and awesome) than watching active Navy SEALS act out their most intense, hardcore missions? But just how close does the film come to real life?
From watching the “behind the scenes” trailer, the answer is pretty close. The film uses not only real SEALS, but their real weapons and gear. The plot is based on five different missions that the SEALS actually executed, connected by a concocted Islamic terrorist / South American drug lord duo. Producer Scott Waugh says “the threats that are in this film are possible threats that are out there right now.”
Add to that the fact that the SEALS did all of their own stunts (obviously) and that they even used live ammunition while filming, and it all looks pretty real.
There’s no reason to doubt that the way the guys fight and act on camera is a close imitation of how they actually execute missions. But there’s more to telling a story than the action, even for an action film. The Navy freely admits that Act of Valor was first conceived of as a recruiting film, and it hasn’t lost that propagandist edge.
The film doesn’t question the greater context of the war on terror. There are no doubts that the bad guys are bad and the good guys are good. So while the fight scenes may be accurate, nothing in the real world is that black and white. In the end, Act of Valor may be no more realistic than the average action movie.