Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

February 28, 2012

Save us, Tom Cruise!

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In the Navy!

Kim Hollis: Act of Valor, a film that featured real-life Navy SEALs and realistic action sequences, opened to $24.5 million. How impressed are you by this result?

Brett Beach: I think this is impressive from an economic standpoint ($13 million pickup, 2 times that on marketing), but it also strikes me as analogous in some ways to The Passion of the Christ, albeit with patriotic flagwaving replacing the faith-based aspects of the retelling of Christ's final 12 hours. I didn't expect it to come anywhere near the former's gross, but it seemed as if it would be the first film since then that could satisfy the same kind of spiritual yen and could justify whatever level of violence was needed in the story with the explanation that this is "what really happened/happens" and it wouldn't be subjected to attacks for being just another corrupting Hollywood film. I would be surprised if it signals a larger trend, but I also would foresee other branches of the military getting in on the action. Question: Since much was made of the use of "live ammo" for what is essentially a training/recruitment film, what would the blowback have been if there had been "friendly fire" deaths?

Bruce Hall: I think this is significant in light of the fact that Americans tend not to like watching movies about current conflicts unless they're portrayed in a fictional, jingoistic light (*cough* Top Gun). Otherwise, we prefer soulful, hand wringing epics about things that happened so long ago they SEEM like fiction. But this film and this result present an interesting anomaly. The "war on terror" (or whatever we're calling it now) is a smaller scale conflict than we're used to, and has been fought largely out of sight for some time. Yet most Americans do realize there's still a threat afoot and that we remain in danger. Still, for many the menace seems distant, as the events of 9/11 have receded far enough for us to view them with with historical context. The end result is that this may be the first time in memory Hollywood has released a film about a conflict in which the United States is currently engaged, yet is one which many Americans seem to view as abstract. Well, what's NOT abstract is almost $25 million in box office. Say what you will about the shallowness of chest-thumping jingoism; sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered. I'll be the first to admit the Super Bowl trailer for this movie made me want to find a flag and strangle a terrorist with it.


But as the SEALs themselves say, "the easiest day was yesterday." This is a great start, but next week is most likely the last time we will be discussing of Act of Valor before it hits the shelves at Best Buy.

Reagen Sulewski: Novelty is a big thing in the movie business. Being the first people to bring out something that's never been seen before or hasn't been seen for a long time can be very lucrative. Ditto that for serving a niche market that's been ignored, and this film hits both those points. It's dangerous to draw out any larger social trends from this, since the followup is always tricky. In addition to the Passion of the Christ example mentioned above, I'd bring in Tyler Perry films. No one else has really been able to do what he does, because he got there first.

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