Movie Revolt’s Review of Act of Valor
Article By: Dan Clark
The simple premise of Act of Valor has sparked some controversy. Some see a film made by the U.S. Military that casts real life Navy Seals as an opportunity to see a true reflection of the American spirit while others see it as nothing more than a propaganda piece. Personally I feel the idea of casting real life Navy Seals in a film has some potential. With their knowledge and background we could get a film that replicates the trial and tribulations they actual go through on a daily basis. Action that wipes away the cleanliness and polish we have come to expect, and injects a sense of realism to provide something new and different. However that wasn’t the case at all. Instead of being a reflection of reality it was replica of tired action films we have already seen.
While the attraction of Act of Valoris the fact it stars real life Navy SEALs the plot reads like any other action thriller. They do attempt to establish some villains, though that attempt was rather unsuccessful. As to be suspected with today’s environment the main antagonists are terrorists bent on causing major destruction and chaos across the globe. Recently they have captured an undercover C.I.A. agent and are holding her hostage. The issue with these villains is that the film strangely tries to make them into actual characters. Instead of trying to separate itself from generic Hollywood terrorists it emulates them in many ways. One dimensional wouldn’t begin to describe how thinly they were written. Some of their monologues were rather ridiculous and read like fan fiction. It wasn’t that they lacked personality, but rather reeked of a forged persona. They attempted to create characters with charisma and allure but they felt like generic wannabe James Bond villains. What made this issue stand out even more was how it didn’t mesh what the film was trying to establish. For a movie that so heavily pushed the fact it starred real life soldiers and was inspired by true events it never successfully separated itself from other Hollywood productions that cover the same material.
On the other side of the coin trying to stop these terrorists is a Navy SEAL team stationed out of San Diego. Like I mentioned previously the soldiers here are not actors, but the real thing. We get some background on who they are as people, but they are only identified by codenames What these people do in real life is beyond heroic so it makes sense they would be the people you cast to best represent what it takes to be a solider. I know the idea of ‘’playing yourself’’ doesn’t seem like a challenge but it truly is. Delivering lines, even if the words are ones you say on a daily basis, does require talent. While the performances won’t win any Oscars they were fine for a group of first time actors. The first mission we see the SEALs take is the rescuing of that CIA agent that has been taken hostage. This is when you begin to see the impact of the military’s influence on the film. The use of real life tactics and up to date technology plays like a training video at times. After a successful rescue the team soon discovers they stumbled upon a plot that is far larger and more dangerous then they first anticipated. This leads them on a number of missions across the globe to stop the terrorists’ plans to create mass destruction. Truthfully the film has less of a plot and more of an excuse for the team to move to the next action point. That in a way is what you expect from an action movie, and at the end of the day Act of Valor is not much more than that.
The biggest question I had leaving the film was attempting to determine what its purpose was. At first I thought it may be to give American audiences a better understanding of what these soldiers go through. Perhaps it does, but the action is shot like a typical genre film. There was a huge use of slow motion and tired camera techniques that we have seen timeless times before. I never felt what I was seeing was at all different than other films that are in the same vein. You could easily describe this as Navy SEALs 2. There has been a huge comparison to this film and video games like Modern Warfare. Instead of breaking away from the label of “Modern Warfare: The Movie” it seems to be running towards it. The huge use of the third person camera was the perfect example. A technique that is meant to bring you into the movie completely took me out as I felt I forgot to bring my controller, and was waiting for some teenager to make fun of my newbie gamer skills. Based on how the action was shot and choreographed the main purpose seemed to be nothing more than simple entertainment.
Another criticism that was created simply based on the trailer was that this was going to be a gigantic propaganda piece. The film is directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh who up to this time have only directed Military recruitment videos. To be fair I never got any type of political or overly patriotic message while watching. In fact America was barely mentioned. It more focused on the bond and brothership between these soldiers. However some of the dialogue and the ridiculous score made what could have been genuine moments come off as very generic. Plus if that was the purpose that makes the ‘entertaining’ action feel even more out of place. Sure anything that pays homage to American soldiers deserves to be respected, but the Military making this film doesn’t seem like the right avenue. Especially when we have great documentaries like 2010’s Restrepo that do a far better job. In the end this felt like huge wasted opportunity. The stigma “doesn’t know what it wants to be” is over used at this point, but this might be the best example of how a lack of focus can destroy your movie.