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Film / Act of Valor

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"The only easy day was yesterday."
—Tagline & SEAL motto

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.

Provides Examples Of:

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  • Action Bomb: The suicide vests.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License Geography: The terrorist mooks are Filipinos from the Philippines. This had some Filipinos and Filipino-Americans up in arms over the implication that the Philippines was mostly a radical Muslim nation despite having the only Christian majority population in Southeast Asia (due to about 450 years of colonialism) and very close ties to the United States (who colonized them for five decades, after four centuries under Spain) as well as other inaccuracies.
    • The Philippines has a history of radical Islamic terrorism, fair enough - but it's quite a stretch that such terrorists could operate on American soil, being tied up in conflicts with the Philippine military itself. The terrorist mooks also have Christian or Western names and only speak Filipino (aka Tagalog), the national language and more akin to the Western-colonized majority-Christian population instead of the Malay and Arab-influenced Muslim minority. They're also identified as "Filipinos" from a distance because of their Islamic faith and nothing else.
    • They don't have ice cream trucks in the Philippines, just ice cream carts and sidecars. The mere presence of the truck should have aroused suspicions rather than excitement. Plus the truck serves passionfruit-flavored ice cream like it's an everyday thing, but passionfruit is rare in the country to the point of being exotic.
  • Art Shift: The scenes involving professional actors feature steady shots and long cuts while even non-action scenes involving SEALs feature more handheld shots and quick cutsnote .
  • Band of Brothers: The relationship between Bandito Platoon, and by extension, the rest of the SEALs.
  • Badass Army: As one would expect, the film is all about portraying the Navy SEALs in this light.
  • Badass Crew: Bandito Platoon, of course. The Mexican Special Forces that join them for the last fight are also recognized as equals to the SEALs, considering they're meant to go up against the cartels.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bash Brothers: A team-based one, with the SEALs and the Mexican Special Forces teaming up to kick cartel and terrorist ass.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: Abu Shabal.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The troops rescuing Morales. But that's part of their job.
    • And the SWCC boats that pick up them turn up at just the right time to massacre their pursuers with More Dakka.
    • At the climax, Sonny shows up just in time to kill Shabal before he can finish off Chief Dave.
  • 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).
  • Boom, Headshot!: Weimy has a particular talent for dishing out these. The rest of the crew also pull this off several times with their rifles.
    • This is how CIA officer Walter Ross buys it when the cartel raids Morales' safehouse.
    • In fact, there are quite a bit of shots to the head, dished out by the SEALS.
    • One of the SEALs takes a bullet to the face that ruins one of his eyes, but survives it. See Made of Iron.
  • Book Ends: The movie opens with Lt. Rorke teaching Chief Dave how to surf, and closes with Chief Dave surfing alone.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, there's quite a bit of reloading. It even adds a bit of dramatic tension when Chief Dave tries to reload his pistol before Shabal can reload his rifle at the end.
  • Break Them by Talking: Senior Chief's specialty. He manages to do in five minutes, using only words and a small video, what Christo's thugs couldn't do in several days of brutal torture.
  • Carpet-Rolled Corpse: Lisa Morales is kidnapped while playing Scrabble with Walter Ross. The gangsters knock her out, cut a square into the carpet she is on and roll her up in it.
  • The Cartel: The terrorist Big Bad is being aided by a Ukrainian crime lord who controls a drug-running cartel stretching from Central America to Mexico. The SEAL team first has to rescue a CIA agent being tortured by the cartel in Central America before tracking their operations across the globe and raiding the Ukranian leader's boat. The final battle is between the combined US Navy SEAL/Mexican SOF team and the cartel soldiers and terrorists, the former of whom are trying to smuggle the latter's suicide bombers into the United States. The majority of the bad guys are actually cartel gunmen of one sort or another, working to support Shabal's Jihadists.
  • Chekhov's Skill: "I don't know much about Senior Chief, just that I wouldn't want to be interrogated by him."
  • Code Name: Blackbeard Actual for Lt. Rorke, Blackbeard Main for Mission Control, Whiplash for the SWCC boats, and Bucket for the Army Chinooks.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Literally, when intelligence officer Morales is attacked and kidnapped. More figuratively when the SEALs take on hordes of mooks.
  • Cut Apart: The SEALS searching the village where the terrorists are hiding. One team approaches a door, then we have a shot of the terrorists working on their explosive vests, then the SEALS burst into the room of a woman who starts shouting.
  • Death of a Child: The first onscreen terror attack is a bomb at a primary school in the Philippines.
  • 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.
  • Double Tap: Sonny puts about half a magazine into Shabal on rapid semi-automatic, and then puts two more into him when he's on the ground.
  • The Door Slams You: A cartel member runs to a door only for an explosive entry charge to blast it into his face.
  • Dramatic Shattering: A cartel member falls through a skylight.
  • 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 were active SEALs at the time of filming, with no real acting experience. Which means that their less-than-excited reactions under fire and killing enemies are pretty much because they've Seen It All.
  • 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.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: It's following a Navy SEAL team.
    • In a slight subversion, while SWCCs are considered part of Naval Special Warfare, and work closely with SEALs, they're relatively unknown.
    • Also, the movie shows that while the SEALs are very capable, they rely on a lot of enablers and support to be in the right place and time.
  • Elite Army: The Mexican SOF team that supports the SEAL assault into the Mexican cartel.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Shabal's willingness to let children be collateral damage in his assassination of the US ambassador firmly shows that he's a nasty piece of work, while Christo's Psychotic Smirk when he hears Morales get punched by the torturer earns him no sympathy either.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Christo has a family and deeply loves both his wife and daughter. The fact that he might never see them again is what Miller uses to break him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Christo is shown to be disturbed by Shabal's megalomania.
  • Eye Scream: One SEAL takes a bullet to the eye during the rescue of Morales. He survives.
  • Faceless Mooks: The Mexican SOF team again, with their balaclavas. They need to hide their identities or risk cartel retribution.
  • 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.
    Lt. Rorke: How are you gonna explain that one to my family?
    Chief Dave: Get back there so I don't have to, huh?
  • Gatling Good: The SWCCs (and a couple of Seahawk helicopters) are equipped with these for More Dakka.
  • Gunship Rescue: The SWCC boats coming to extract the SEALs.
  • Heroic Lineage: 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.
  • 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 recent footage of his daughter on his cell phone.
  • Impaled Palm: Lisa Morales gets this with a drill.
  • 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
  • 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. They also team up with the Mexican Special Forces for the final mission, and are nothing but cordial and respectful.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Nickname: Christo, a drug smuggler who helps Muslim extremist terrorists and has no qualms over his men beating a defenseless woman. Of course, the nickname is likely a reference to his long hair and beard.
  • 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 with him.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: Performed as a Heroic Sacrifice by Lt. Rorke in the assault on the Mexican cartel.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Rorke is supposed to be getting a promotion to Lt. Commander and an assignment as aide to the President, including carrying the Football note . It's portrayed as a positive for Rorke, since he'll have more time for his family.
  • 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.
  • Made of Iron: In universe:
    "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.
      • It's more likely Chief Dave's story is based on that of Chief Matt Dale, a Navy SEAL who was wounded during the Battle of Ramadi. It's almost word for word the same: Chief Dale's M4 and part of his thumb was shot away, and he took twenty seven rounds. Eleven were stopped by his body armor; sixteen went through him. While all that was going on, Chief Dale drew his sidearm and returned fire. Unlike Chief Dave, Chief Dale killed the three insurgents shooting at him, with one magazine.
    • 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.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Senior Chief does this to Christo as a means of establishing dominance, calling him "Crisco," among other things.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Out of 14 men and three women who are Shabal's suicide bombers, the men are casually shot down while the women are given lingering closeups and scenes of themselves looking regretful, including one's tragic backstory of wanting to reunite with her husband.
  • Mission Control: Blackbeard Main.
  • Mood Whiplash: Senior Chief Miller's interrogation; he starts politely, then is Suddenly Shouting at Christo's attempt to smarm him.
  • Mook Horror Show: All of the major gunfights the SEALs get in invoke this on the part of the terrorists/cartel soldiers. The parts shown from their perspective as they fight the SEALs shows them facing deadly squads of elite soldiers who are slipping among their positions in total silence, snipers picking off their men as they try to flee, and deadly-coordinated SEALs cutting down their troops with precise shots.
  • More Dakka: The entire point of the SWCC boats, which are bristling with general purpose & heavy machineguns and miniguns. Given that their purpose is for extraction of SEALs under fire, this is deliberately invoked.
    • In a subversion, most of the time the SEALs are firing on semiauto, instead of burst or full automatic.

  • Nerves of Steel: The SEALs wade into gunfire against massive odds without flinching or slowing down while still maintaining fire discipline and squad tactics.
  • New Meat: Averted: all members of Bandito Platoon are experienced SEALs; the least experienced SEAL, Sonny, has 3 SEAL tours and seven years as an EOD tech, defusing bombs.
  • Non-Action Guy: Senior Chief, who serves as the intel specialist and interrogator. Chief's narration suggests that he's more of a semi-Retired Badass and a major part of Mission Control.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Christo doesn't even try to fight back when his yacht is boarded.
  • 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.
  • Product Placement: A troop is seen using a Canon camera.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Compared to the polished performances given by the professional actors in the cast, the military personnel speak very naturally and relatively subdued because they're actually playing out scenarios as if they were actually in briefings and operations. The few times the SEALs are called on to act result in Dull Surprise.
  • 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 experienced 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.
  • Shout-Out: Senior Chief Miller chides Christo on not having seen Star Trek.
  • 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 Chief Dave moves through the structure turning his sight on and off as needed.
  • Spiritual Successor: Some have called it The Green Berets for The War on Terror.
  • Squad Nickname: Bandito Platoon.
  • Surprise Vehicle: Even though Christo is on a yacht in the middle of the ocean on a fine day and has armed guards keeping a lookout, no-one notices the US Navy until they're right on top of them.
  • 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.
  • Tranquil Fury: Chief Dave enters this after Lt. Rorke's Heroic Sacrifice, proceeding to solo the cartel and terrorist remnants.
  • 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.
  • Where's My Gun?: The two CIA agents never even bother with making sure they have a weapon at the ready when one of them answers the door. Sure, they might have been only expecting food delivery, but that still doesn't excuse them from not being ready for things to go sour quickly.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: The SEALs are careful to avoid shooting civilians in Tijuana, Mexico. Justified, not only for obvious reasons, but also for understandable reasons.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: When Bandito Platoon raids the suicide bomber staging village, they think everything's settled... until Mission Control tells Rorke there's 8 more terrorists to hunt.