The new film “Act of Valor” doesn’t accuse U.S. military members of war crimes, nor does it paint them as cold killing machines.
That simply won’t do for many film critics, who cling to the kind of anti-military movies which routinely flop at the box office. “Valor” uses amateur actors – active duty Navy SEALs – and certainly can be faulted for their flat line readings. And the episodic nature of the movie also invites fair critiques, even if it’s remarkable the cast routinely acted around live gunfire. But many critics went beyond the call of duty to smite a film that dared to show SEALs as heroes, and their efforts to stop terrorists a noble endeavor.
Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf calls the film “scary,” with a “ridiculously limited view of American righteousness.”
Tampa Bay Times critic Steve Persall dubs “Valor” “a land mine movie for anyone to review who isn’t a military veteran, who hasn’t bought into the cult of warfare,” later adding “pacifists won’t be nearly as impressed.”
How ’bout audiences who realize terrorists are a legitimate threat, and that military intervention is often necessary to prevent them from wiping out hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents?
Philly.com’s David Hiltbrand seemed upset by sequences in which people responsible for the capture and torture of a CIA agent met their gruesome fate:
You watch as one of our snipers dispassionately and from a great distance lays out these scruffy untrained campesinos one after the other with graphic head shots.
So, as long as you’re a “scruffy, untrained campesino” we should give you a pass for torturing a woman. But Hiltbrand’s moral confusion intensified as the film wore on:
Here’s a clue – the folks who want to commit terrorist acts are the bad guys and need to be stopped. The ones stopping them are the heroes. Now, how hard is that?
Near the end, the film degenerates into an extended, chaotic firefight. You know who you’re supposed to be rooting for because they’re the ones wearing uniforms, but it’s easy to lose touch with why.
And then there’s Roger Ebert, the dean of liberal film critics. Mr. Thumb actually has some positive things to say about “Valor,” noting its excellent action sequences, for starters. But Ebert can’t help compare the film with “To Hell and Back,” a new documentary following a soldier who joined the Marines because he wanted to kill people.
Why Ebert would compare the heroism on display in “Valor” to a single soldier with serious mental issues is beyond comprehension.
Ironically, the liberal comedy outlet The Onion delivered a harsh but fair assessment of the film.
No film should be above criticism, but the nature of the attacks above has less to do with quality and everything to do with scribes uneasy with the notion that Navy SEALs should be considered heroes for their bravery in the face of live fire – on and off screen.
(Cross-posted from Big Hollywood)