Act Of Valor review

Review Ron Hogan 27 Feb 2012 - 07:07
Act Of Valor

It might be a bit of a propaganda film for the Navy SEALs, but Ron still finds things to like in Act Of Valor...

When a CIA agent named Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) is made by the smuggling kingpin she's been observing, she finds herself in the hands of a brutal, bloodthirsty gang of trained killers. Christo (Alex Veadov) is the man behind the cartel, and he's a dangerous fellow to be at odds with, if only because he seems to have global contacts and an effortless supply of thugs. Meanwhile, terrorists leader Abu Shamal (Jason Cottle) is looking for a way to improve his terrorism technology while getting his associates into the United States via Mexico.

If you're wondering if these two things are related, just ask the United States Navy's Sea Air and Land Teams, aka the Navy SEALs. After all, there's no team better equipped to take on a host of missions around the world, from observing a drug shipment in Somalia to a raid on a narco terrorism compound in Mexico. They have the skills and equipment, but can they stop Shamal before he and his international band of terrorists bring down the US economy?

Act of Valor isn't a movie, per se. It is kind of a combination of a propaganda/recruitment piece and a combination of fictionalized events that happened to real people. For example, the Navy SEALs in this movie are legitimate Navy SEALs, and all of them (at least during filming) were active duty members of the Navy's special operations unit. Even the more outrageous elements are based on actual stories, either told to the SEALs by other SEALs or that happened to the actual SEALs that took part in filming. That's what makes Act of Valor worth seeing, and is the movie's biggest credit and worst detraction.

Aside from a few of the women and most of the bad guys, the stars of Act of Valor are not professional actors, and it shows in the few scenes where the men have to deliver dialogue outside of the sorts of things commonly said in their profession. The actual acting content is negligible, but when you're there with them as they jump out of airplanes or storm a Central American village, then you don't need acting. The authenticity is what matters in these scenes, and these are the scenes that make the movie. It's less a movie and more a series of awesome action set pieces that are the sort of thing SEALs do day in and day out. (I will have to say, the guy who plays the Senior Chief/interrogator is pretty impressive and intense in his scene with Christo).

Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh are primarly known for some documentary stuff, including one on the Navy's SWCC (another special forces type of unit). They know how to get in on the action, and they do so using some very good camera angles, some creative use of drone/airborne footage, and some intense POV-style shooting.

Unforunately for the SEALs and directors, Kurt Johnstad's script and story aren't a whole lot. Recovering a captured CIA agent and unearthing a global conspiracy? That's pretty exciting stuff, but nobody seems terribly excited by it. Maybe that's because that kind of thing is old hat to SEALs, but surely some excitement would be had after a successful mission, right? Or perhaps a little more cameraderie from the guys not the main two characters? That's a world I don't really understand, so I won't be too critical. Still, the story framing the action scenes is very predictable.

Predictable story aside, just learning what the Navy SEALs do and just how they do it makes Act of Valor worth seeing, if only once. If you have ever had any kind of preoccupation or curiosity about the sort of guys that killed Osama Bin Laden and just how these sorts of missions are executed, then Act of Valor is definitely worth seeing. If you want a realistic portrait of military units working as a team, again, Act of Valor is the antidote to the Rambo vigilante school of action movies. The things these men do are incredible. It's just a shame the movie isn't quite as impressive.

3 stars

US Correspondent Ron Hogan has the utmost respect for the men and women who serve his country in the armed forces, and he is very proud of his veteran relatives. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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