Act of Valor is a 2012 war film, revolving around a US Navy SEAL platoon from SEAL Team 7 on a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA officer and stop terrorists planning an attack against America.The film has an interesting production history: originally the Navy worked with Bandito Brothers to produce a SEAL recruitment video, akin to the company's recruitment video for Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen; as work progressed the Powers That Be realised that they had enough material for a feature-length movie and began pushing in that direction, a Top Gun equivalent for SEALs.A trailer can be viewed here.
Adaptation Expansion: The novelization, which expands further on the characterisation of Bandito Platoon, and provides alternative scenarios to certain scenes in the movie.
Affably Evil: For a weapons and drugs trafficker who has no issues with letting his men brutally kill and torture CIA agents, Christo is a remarkably reasonable, polite, friendly, educated, and soft-spoken man.
All There in the Manual: Bandito Platoon, the designator for the protagonists, is only used in supplementary materials. And on the memorial picture frame of Lt. Rorke
The surnames of Bandito Platoon are only noted in the novelisation.
Armor Is Useless: Played with; Chief's crew skip armor when rescuing Morales, since it's too heavy to swim with. However, they later wear their armor on the raids into Mexico: LT's vest keeps him from being killed by an RPG-7 (with a dud warhead), and helps absorb the blast from the grenade he jumps on, mortally wounding him instead of outright death. Chief's body armor is the only thing that keeps him from being killed outright by Shabal.
Band of Brothers: The relationship between Bandito Platoon, and by extension, the rest of the SEALs.
Bad Humor Truck / Car Bomb: The suicide car bomb that Abu Shabal used is an ice cream truck, and it exploded when several school children, including an American child and the US ambassador, were congregated nearby
Backed by the Pentagon: Among other things, filming at Navy training facilities, support from Navy aircraft and ships, including a submarine, and active-duty Navy SEALs playing the main characters.
Interestingly, the Navy claims that no taxpayer money was used, as the combat scenes were filmed during scheduled training exercises.
Bang Bang BANG: Averted: The gunshots are very much authentic-sounding. That was because they were authentic bullets. The cast was really shooting on set.
Beard of Evil: Both Christo and Shabal are bearded. Senior Chief, on the other hand, is bearded but good.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. CIA officer Lisa Morales emerges from captivity and torture bruised, bleeding, and crippled.
Berserk Button: Don't ever give even the faintest scintilla of a hint that you might not be 100% behind Shabal's scheme. Just...don't.
Blasting It out of Their Hands: During his solo raid on the cartel, Chief Dave's M4 is shot out of his hands, resulting in his shooting hand being hurt and forcing him to switch to his pistol. Later, at Lt. Rorke's funeral, his hand is shown completely wrapped in bandages. The bullet took his thumb off (visible in the First Person Cam when he's reloading his pistol the second time).
Cold-Blooded Torture: Lisa Morales is put through this, beginning with a severe beating, and ending with holes drilled through her hands and feet. At first, when Senior Chief goes in to interrogate Christo, the audience is under the impression that bad guys will get what bad guys get, but then modern and actually effective interrogation techniques are used to maximum effect.
Cool Boat: The SWCC boats. Fast and bristling with guns, can be inserted and extracted by helicopter, and enough space to evacuate a SEAL team.
Christo's yacht is pretty nice, too...
The USS Florida, the Ohio-class submarine that receives Ray and Ajay. Carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, a SEAL delivery minisub, and is near silent when underway at speed.
Cool Hat: The Multicam boonie hats worn by the SEALs.
Combat Medic: According to the novelisation, this is Mikey's main role in the team.
He's also been training the members of Bandito Platoon to be this, in case anything happens to him. This comes in handy when he takes a bullet to the FACE while rescuing Morales.
Continuity Nod: After Lt.Rorke tanks a dud RPG, Chief hands it to Sonny to dispose of, since he used to be an Explosive Ordnance Disposal tech.
Determinator: An important quality for SEALs, best shown by how Chief Dave will not stop fighting, even after getting his shooting hand shot up and bleeding to death. He takes pretty much a full AK-47 magazine to the chest, and he's still trying to reload his pistol as he blacks out from blood loss.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Literally, when intelligence officer Morales is attacked and kidnapped. More figuratively when the SEALs take on hordes of mooks.
Doing It for the Art: The fire being put down by the SWCC boats? More often than not it's live ammo.
That truck getting blown up by an RPG? No special effects whatsoever, that was a real truck getting hit with a real RPG.
Dwindling Party: Bandito Platoon's numbers slowly decrease throughout the movie, as SEALs are either wounded or forced to split up to handle multiple threats, which makes Chief Dave's solo assault a necessity, not choice.
Dull Surprise: The majority of the actors are active SEALs with no real acting experience.
Elite Mooks: Shabal's terrorists, when compared with the cartel gunmen. The cartel thugs are mostly just Mooks, save the one who managed to shoot Mikey (by sheer luck while firing blind through a wall), while every one of Shabal's suicide troops puts up some degree of serious resistance. Most notable is the one who is crazy enough to use a rocket-propelled grenade as a close-combat weapon.
Fast Roping: Done twice as a means of transfer from helicopter to boat. In the first instance, the SWCCs fast rope into their boats in mid-flight.
First Name Basis: All of the SEALs, except for Lt. Rorke, Chief Dave, and Senior Chief Miller, who are referred to by their rank.
Framing Device: A letter written by Chief Dave, which forms the basis for his narration.
Friendly Sniper: Weimy. Played With in that Weimy doesn't necessarily talk more on his missions, or directly address his enemies, which actually makes him a Cold Sniper, if it wasn't for the fact that he's on the good guys' side.
Friend or Foe: Lt. Rorke and Chief Dave nearly shoot each other in the cartel factory, but avert and jokingly lampshade this trope.
Chief Dave: Jesus, LT, how are you gonna explain that one to my family?
Hope Spot: After Rorke jumps on the grenade, it first seems he's died, until we see him blinking a few times... and then his eyes stop moving as the soundtrack goes silent and his heartbeat slows to a halt.
I Have Your Wife: Miller shows Christo a recording of the latter's daughter during his interrogation, with this implied. Then immediately subverted; he is not threatening Christo's daughter, he's just showing him his daughter to remind him of what he will lose if he doesn't cooperate and gets sent to prison for the rest of his life. When Christo asks if Miller will leave his family alone, he emphatically replies that he would never harm Christo's family. It's a brilliant piece of subtext without a direct threat, because you know Christo was wondering how in the hell this guy got footage of his daughter.
Infant Immortality: Averted: the first onscreen terror attack is a bomb at a primary school in the Phillipines.
In Joke: During the first raid, a canteen hitting the ground spoils Bandito's stealth. Ask anybody who served in the military what the loudest and most recognizable sound in the woods is. Hint: a canteen
In the Blood: Chief Dave's attempt to provide some measure of comfort to Lt. Rorke's son: His great-grandfather was a hero, his father was a hero, and the same blood flows through his veins.
Interservice Rivalry: Very strongly averted; the SEALs have no problems coordinating with other Navy assets, and Army Spec Ops Chinooks infil and extract the Whiplash SWCC boats.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The majority of the badguys are not well-trained combat troops; in fact, almost all of them are either fanatical civilians or criminal thugs. In addition, most of the most obvious examples of enemy combatants being horrible shots involve ones who are firing blind or shooting from the hip, and all the bad guys are firing on full auto. Most of the cartel thugs at the end, for example, are firing wildly without bracing their weapons. By contrast, the SEAL and Mexican SOF teams use their weapons properly, firing single shots or short bursts, and hit constantly.
It's Raining Men: First scene of the movie. HALO insertion and parachuting make more appearances as a prime method of inserting SEALs into combat.
Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Senior Chief Miller averts this when interrogating Christo, relying instead on psychological head games and leverage. It does come close to getting to this trope when Christo uses a Newton's cradle to demonstrate the two pronged front on America between him and Shabal, however, due to Miller shattering the Newton's cradle in irritation at Christo's attempt at playing mind games on him.
Lock and Load Montage: There's one where the SWCCs prep their boats for combat, readying an impressive number of guns for combat.
Morality Pet / Papa Wolf: Christo does have a very tiny redeemable factor to his character, and its that he does genuinely care for his family, and it was the prospect of his not seeing his daughter or his wife again, and the fear of what might happen in his absence, that resulted in him telling the SEALs everything he knows about Shabal's plans regarding the ceramic claymore bomb vests during his interrogation.
"Mikey, you took one to the face, man! You're a hard motherfucker!"
Chief Dave. Being shot up with what amounts to pretty much a full AK-47 magazine, he still manages to take out the escaping jihadis using his M4 carbine, and switches to his service pistol when he can't fire the M4 anymore. This was based on a real account, so there's a SEAL out there who really is made of iron (well, several probably).
Possibly based on Danny Dietz, who according to the account of the only surviving member of his squad simply would not stop fighting, despite being hit multiple times. His body was found still griping his M9 pistol.
Lt. Rorke takes an RPG-7 round to the chest, and survives. Granted, it had a dud warhead and he was wearing his body armor. His luck runs out with the grenade.
Every SEAL on the team. Because every SEAL is made of iron, no exceptions.
Obfuscating Disability: Possibly. The Senior Chief tells Crisco — uh, Christo that he's hard of hearing, and uses that information as an interrogation technique.
Oh Crap: Happens a few times. Particularly noteworthy is when LT and Chief breach a room and come face to face with a suicide bomber, and rush to GTFO before she detonates. They make it out just in time.
One-Man Army: Chief Dave pulls this, fueled by Tranquil Fury, though not entirely by choice, since the Mexican SOF operator with him got shot.
Reluctant Warrior: The female jihadist that ended up blowing herself up during the climax is shown to not want to have to essentially go suicide bomber, as she is seen displaying visible reluctance to Shabal of having to commit to it (to which Shabal reassures her that she'll meet up with her husband in Heaven), as well as silently crying when she ultimately goes through with it.
Retirony: While no one is on the verge of retirement, any Genre Savvy viewer can figure out that the person that keeps talking about taking time off to be with his wife while their baby is born is going to end up doing a Heroic Sacrifice before the end of the movie.
Sharp-Dressed Man: Senior Chief's attire when interrogating Christo, contrasting the fatigues worn earlier.
Shown Their Work: This is the most accurate fictional depiction of warfare to date in movie history, the battle tactics in this film are all done as realistically as possible (right down to using live ammo) and it shows.
When an enemy is shot with a sniper rifle by a SEAL, another SEAL catches the body from his position underwater so it doesn't splash into the river and give away their position.
Miller's interrogation of Christo is pretty much spot-on with how actual interrogations are often carried out. Instead of torture and brutality, it is most often just two men talking across a table, with the interrogator asking questions and making it clear to the prisoner that it's in their best interests to tell them what they want to know.
There's only a few scenes where the Laser Sight is used: the first is during a nighttime op where everyone is wearing night vision goggles, which allows the SEAL team to track where the rest of their teammates are aiming by following their laser beams. The second is in a close-quarters assault on the factory at the climax, where the SEAL team and the Mexican SOF are fighting through smoke-filled rooms where they have to quickly acquire targets without using their holographic sights.
Torture Always Works: Averted. The CIA operative doesn't give up any useful information under torture. In another scene, a more effective interrogation is shown, with no torture. It's much more subtle and psychological.
Translation Convention: Played straight in Ukraine during the conversation between Christo and Shabal. Nicely averted during the interrogation on Christo's yacht: Senior Chief Miller queries Christo in a couple of languages before they settle on English as being most comfortable for them both to converse in.
Alternately, as both Abu Shabal and Cristo are seen to be fluent English speakers, they're speaking in English for additional privacy.
Villain with Good Publicity: Christo; according to Morales, the townspeople love him because he contributes a lot of his drug money to the community.
Would Hit a Girl: When one of the female jihadis tries firing on the SEALs, they have no qualms about shooting her back.
Yanks with Tanks: The film actually portrays several branches of the US military in addition to the Navy SEALs; Army Chinooks in Costa Rica, and Marine Corps Harriers & helicopters onboard the USS Bonhomme Richard.