In a scene that could have jumped out of a Michael Bay movie — or, in the Obama era of surgical warfare, a video monitor in the White House Situation Room — a team of U.S. Navy SEALs boards a sleek yacht, populated with bikini-clad women, to track down and interrogate a dangerous international smuggler.
The sequence is indeed from a movie: the new release “Act of Valor.” But the SEALs are real-life active-duty operators (the babes and the bad guy are actors), and the episode is an authentic training maneuver, although the yacht was provided by the film’s producers. That mix of fiction and realism is just what the filmmakers hope will draw audiences to “Act of Valor” this weekend, when it arrives in 3,000 theaters throughout the country.
But the surprising, if not unprecedented, use of so many active-duty military personnel, as well as the filmmakers’ embedded access to training missions and material (including a nuclear submarine) have put “Act of Valor” in the crosshairs of critics who question whether the movie crosses the line between entertainment and propaganda, and whether the military should be in the movie business at all. The relationship between the Pentagon and Hollywood has raised eyebrows before, even prompting an occasional congressional investigation.