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If there is a war movie that seemed to have the odds against it being a blockbuster, “Act of Valor” is it. It features none of the top stars who might be picked for such a role. There are no big-name producers behind it. The directors – nobody’s really heard of either of them.

Yet this is arguably the best film about the War on Terror that has appeared in theaters to date. The SEALs who acted the parts deliver what the A-List stars have failed to do in movies like Stop-Loss and In the Valley of Elah – to say nothing of cinematic hit jobs like Redacted: true authenticity in a war/military-related film, and the most realistic and authentic portrayals of the American heroes who put their lives on the line for America every day this reviewer has ever seen.

The authentic action thriller starts with a training jump – and the glimpse of the life the SEALs have at home. In this comes perhaps the film’s only shortcoming: They focus so much on telling the story of the SEALs that they forget the families – who themselves have acted in their own form of heroism during this war. The lead SEAL, Lt. Roark, has a baby on the way with his wife, and also, when there is spare time, is trying to teach his chief how to surf.

The SEALs get called into action for a hostage rescue of a CIA agent from the thugs working for a drug smuggler. In the course of the rescue, the SEALs recover intelligence that the cartel has ties to a jihadi terrorist responsible for a particularly nasty bombing that killed an American ambassador. The terrorists have come up with a fiendish new twist on explosive vests of the type used in murder-suicide bombings.

From there, the SEALs move into action to stop the terrorist’s plot. In action across the globe, the SEALs move to get the intelligence, whether it is capturing people to interrogate, or observing a covert airstrip. The movie shows the terrorist laying out his plan – a plan that involves the use of a new, deadlier type of explosive vest.

The climax seems to come in two parts: First, the takedown of the base – in which half of the bombers are taken out on site and the SEALs discover the vests – recognizing instantly that they are very sophisticated and dangerous. The SEALs continue their push towards a climactic showdown with the terrorist mastermind.

The SEALs get aid from Mexican special operations personnel, who get them in position to take down the terrorist. It is in this climactic fight that the real moral distinctions in the war on terror emerge in the actions taken by Roark and the terrorist mastermind. You find yourself rooting for the SEALs to take the bastard down.

Overall, the film is superb. What the SEALs may lack in terms of training in acting, they more than made up for in providing authentic portrayals. The actions scenes are on par with some of the big A-list blockbuster films. The film is well-done and well-executed.

If there is any justice in the world, this film will be a nominee for Best Picture in the next Academy Awards, with the directors being nominated for Oscars as well.

Article by Harold Hutchison

Harold Hutchison is the author of Strike Group Reagan.