The Oxford English Dictionary defines propaganda as “chiefly derogatory information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view [emphasis theirs].”
Act of Valor, a United States Navy-sanctioned and aided Hollywood film, that the military has also used for recruitment purposes, meets every part of that definition. It is definitely biased, most assuredly misleading, is used in jingoistic fashion to promote the cause of a particular country, and is, despite this government’s greatest public ambitions towards being otherwise, very derogatory. This movie sucks, too, but as much as I try to raise my liberal hackles at this awful mess, I can’t really give too much of a shit. It’s a recruiting film trying to disguise itself as an action flick, and I do not care.
The story behind the production is a bit too tedious to recount, so let me just write, then: this movie is about Navy SEALs, and just about all the main characters are actual Navy SEALs. That would be fantastic if the action scenes alone featured some special ops folks making things more realistic, but in this dog, the SEALs are tasked with all the heavy lifting with the acting, as well. Oh, boy. Our guys may be the best in the world at getting the drop on terrorists, but it’s pretty easy to say not one of them is tragically missing their Hollywood calling. The acting in this film is atrocious; near the bottom of any set of ensemble performances I’ve ever seen. But, it isn’t the main cast’s fault. These guys aren’t actors. They are active duty military personnel that were, by some accounts, forced to act in this flick. Even if the cast was full of volunteers, I can’t hold the performances against them.
There is a huge amount of bullshit surrounding this film that a viewer must get past before they can enjoy it. And then when they do, if they happen to have a bit of brains in their domes, they will realize quickly that they are being sold, in no less subtle a way than a beer commercial on Super Sunday.
If that is a problem, stay away. But there are plenty of reasons to hate this film beyond the political references. In fact, let those political reasons go, and a viewer can enjoy the pure shittiness that is Act of Valor, without being weighed down by things like nuance. The filmmakers didn’t seem to think subtlety was all that important, after all.
As much as I make fun of this film, I’m obviously offended by its purpose. It is essential for our military to fill its ranks every year. National security depends on people willing to sacrifice years of their lives to keeping us safe. But, at the same time, we manufacture so many of our problems, both real and imaginary. National policy is a tale of necessity and corruption. Every person that joins our military, therefore, is a patriotic victim, someone who has been swindled.
Seeing a film like this is a stark reminder that the bargain we have with our military volunteers is a tenuous one based on ideals, but pathetically devoid of real trust.
There is no possible way to regard Act of Valor as a simple action flick, knowing that the military was so involved in its production. The fingers even extend to deaths in the movie. Rest assured, no American characters were killed in this film, except for the expectant father whose death was telegraphed in the first act.
A military life in this movie is portrayed as one where the bulk of one’s time is spent fighting terrorists, and no one on our side...no one...ever dies because their head, or their spleen, or their heart, or a lung, liver, kidney, artery, or spine, happened to be in the way of a screaming hot piece of metal. They died jumping on a grenade to save the live of their buddies. They died in a soldierly fashion, not because a war zone has a million ways to kill someone, most times at random.
Alien: Resurrection is better than this chickenshit movie. Now that I think of it, I do care.