Directors: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Writer: Kurt Johnstad
Cast: Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, and several real-life Navy SEALs
Rated: R (violence, language)
Film is distributed by 20th Century Fox | Official movie site/trailer | IMDb
I’m quick to admit that I love playing first-person shooter video games, as well as watching shoot ‘em up action flicks. I grew up with Rambo and Medal of Honor. Do I support war or condone acts of violence? No (well, often on the fence about the former). I don’t know what it is about hardcore action sprinkled with bloody violence that gives some of us an adrenaline rush, but one thing’s for sure is that it doesn’t always translate to our real world desires. Where am I going with this and what’s the point? The film Act of Valor is an up close and personal dramatized encounter with real-life Navy SEALs, a high body count, and some of the most realistic combat effects I’ve seen. I enjoyed this film due in great part to the action, as will many viewers of this film, and I don’t see why that has to be a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I, like many people, look for more than cheap thrills with movies. But I see nothing wrong with a nice adrenaline filled action movie from time to time. Act of Valor is a great example of such a film. It’s got a fairly standard terrorist-driven storyline, lots of gunplay and tactical action complete with first-person perspectives that put the viewer right in the middle of the action. It’s clear that the SEALs weren’t trained in classical acting when forced to perform dramatic dialog, which I forgave knowing this fact from the beginning, but in the tactical scenarios it’s clear they are the real deal. The SEALs don’t give off the presence of hulking action stars, but rather impose a more controlled, modest demeanor.
Now I may be making this sound like a no-holds-barred shoot-everything blow-stuff-up flick, but that would do this film injustice. After all, this film is centered around a group of individuals whom represent some of our nations greatest heroes. It is said that the film originally was meant to be a recruitment film for the Navy. Had I seen such a recruitment film when I was in high school, I may be in a different career. Not only does the film depict guys that can kick some serious butt and pull off life-saving missions against incredible odds, but it also shows respectable characters that truly believe in what they are doing and care for their team as they would family while at the same time risking their lives for people they’ve never met.
The film does what many of its kind have a hard time doing, and that is putting meaning behind the action. While the story isn’t anything spectacular, the feelings of patriotism, heroism, and camaraderie feel authentic and successfully translate to the real world. In other words, the film doesn’t make the gamer inside you want to shoot at the bad guys, but it makes you want to shoot at the bad guys while saving someone’s life and perhaps even an entire population. The film also gives the viewer the realization, mainly by casting real life SEALs such as leads Dave and Rorke, that these people are among us everywhere we go. That itself is a pretty big eye-opener.
A lot of people are going to hate on this film for being too violent, pro-American, etc. and for it’s other faults such as a fairly standard storyline and weak dramatic acting. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course, and in some cases I would agree with some of those opinions. However, I believe that sometimes people are too serious when it comes to movies. Why does one have to agree with everything a movie says or does to enjoy it? While Act of Valor may have set out to enlighten, inspire, and promote, that doesn’t mean it has to have those effects on you to appreciate it. I personally welcomed such an authentic feeling action flick packed with purpose that still satisfied the FPS fan inside me.
The factors keeping me from calling this a perfect action film would be that I would have loved to have gotten to know the characters outside of combat (perhaps the filmmakers wanted to limit the amount of dramatic acting that would have been required to achieve this?). The film certainly could have used improvement in some of these areas. The choice to cast the real-life SEALs did indeed add that level of authenticity where it counted, but detracted from the overall cinematic quality. Nonetheless, I enjoyed enjoyed Act of Valor and felt like I got a good insight into a very exclusive team that serves our country while simultaneously being entertained.