Movie Review: Act Of Valor
Prinz Lee wrote this review 4 years and 9 months ago
I remember the first time I became aware of ACT OF VALOR. I was skimming through my Flixster app on my phone and BOOM – the film’s poster and title stood out without much information other than some credits and its opening day. I wasn’t really taken by it, so I moved on. As days went on, it kept coming up and I even recall someone referring to it as the “CALL OF DUTY movie.”
I respect every man, woman, and child on this big blue marble we share, but I also respect myself and views, therefore being one who’s as anti-war as it comes, due to my own dictatorship, I kept shrugging it off. Many may argue war’s a “necessary evil,” I will stand firm, disagree till my dying day and pretty much continue with my personal views on war, politics, religion and everything else in-between.
Well, as months closed in and I read more into the flick… It became apparent that aside from the film perhaps presenting the American public with war-based propaganda, it seemed like a bit of an experiment considering having cast real life Navy SEALs. That angle kind of stood out and lived within my system.
After weeks of turning down two screening offers, I finally took the third. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and initially continued my feelings on it being more propaganda for warmongers while in disguise and being refereed to as an “action flick.” While strong elements of action are heavily plastered all over the film, I’m going to utilize my manhood a/k/a BALLS to say I was completely wrong on having accused it of one thing, while on the flip… it was totally different.
Like HBO’s original series GENERATION KILL (Which I also watched under protest, however, recommended by a close friend of mine), ACT OF VALOR presents a sample event of true acts of valor, but NEVER glorifies war and/or politics in any way, shape or form! Neutral to its core, respectful towards ALL of mankind and unique, narrative look at what it may seem like while experiencing a mission.
The film’s pace starts off with an infomercial as directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh discuss how they shot the film and why they chose active duty Navy SEALs as leads. This caused a bit of a “Tsk” from me – especially when some narration from an unseen character is speaking in a monotone-like way which was a bit of a yawn at first, however, once the voice disappears (It comes in and out through the film), the plot starts to unfurl, and something happened where my downer attitude converted into something a bit more of intrigue.
The filmmakers initially throw the names of the various SEAL team members in a pretty cool way using onscreen graphics that feels like a videogame. It’s tough to keep track of their names, but the plot’s core centralizes on the two team leaders, one of which is about to have his first child. There’s a nice moment where the team spends their last night with their families at a beach before heading out the next day. Their mission is to rescue an undercover intelligence operative played by a very cute Roselyn Sanchez whose cover has been blown and is being held hostage at a compound in Costa Rica.
What transpires between the capture of Sanchez’s character is fucking mind-blowing!
I know what you’re thinking – routine in/out snatch/grab job. Well, yes and no! There’s more to this particular act as the entire mission entails crazy results which leads to more than Navy SEALs doing their job. Intel informs them they will encounter heavy resistance, therefore, needing back-up in speed-like boats along the river. And that leads to some of the craziest action-based tactics I’ve ever seen in films.
One thing mentioned by the directors in the infomercial is how during the shoot of ACT OF VALOR, live fire rounds were used in its sequences, but what floored me wasn’t the firefights, but how missions are planned and worked out.
It was interesting to watch them engage amongst themselves upon their hardened purposes; however, as a critic I must embark on my call of duty by saying the leads had ZERO acting abilities. It’s as harsh to say as it is for these guys to undergo some of the cynical in military training, but they sucked on camera!
On the flip of things, it’s crazy, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment. Doing away with anything pertaining to dialog or even emotions, when they’re in their element of preparation on a mission, sharing opinions or executing a plan, their actions and/or bickering feels realistic and even establishes some good tension and suspense. Each mission is well choreographed with the filmmakers, as well as given a nice number of POV shots from the soldiers as they look down the barrels of their rifles.
After the boys complete their mission, I thought “Shit, this movie’s going to be about a series of unrelated missions.” I would have been fine with that since the first one was shot and executed with great skill, but there is actually a connection between Sanchez’s character and a much deeper, complex and critical story stemming as the root which led to Sanchez’s situation.
What’s cool about ACT OF VALOR is that the movie keeps moving. It’s constantly on the go! The guys don’t have time to discuss their past or personal hang-ups. They know they have a job to execute and always ready for new orders or unwelcoming occurrences. In the scene on the beach, the team leader mentions that is the place for them to air anything they may have as a form of mental or psychological disturbances – being in sync is key and the most insignificant throw-back can cause lives.
I once again state the leads may not shine while surrounded by real actors like Roselyn Sanchez and Nestor Serrano, but they handle military jargon and realism with great ease. Two bones I have to pick with the film are: One – the opening narration I mentioned earlier… It gives away a little too much and spoils a certain outcome of the plot for anyone intelligent enough to figure it out and two – the soldiers' real names aren’t mentioned (Not even during credits) for their “protection,” yet, they’re physically fully exposed.
ACT OF VALOR leads the boys into several gunfights on enemy compounds around the world in a matter of 90+ minutes. Though the movie often gets into heavy action mode, I didn’t feel like the action sequences were there just as an excuse to blow stuff up. The villains felt a little cheap, but their intentions are just as real as those in the real world out to unleash terror. Sure, the leads aren’t that strong in the acting department, but you identify with them and what they stand for.
Was it the greatest movie ever? No. I’ve seen better, however, it did get me thinking about those guys who sacrifice everything for their country. (My brother being an Airman… We’ll argue over world issues, politics etc till we’re blue in the face, but there’s a string of consciousness which allows us to keep deep respect among one another)
Overall, ACT OF VALOR is an action movie, but one with neutral intentions and messages. That of course is up to you to personally interpret, as this is more than just a pop-corn movie.