Act of Valor

8 Mar

Title: Act of Valor
Year: 2012
Directors: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Writer: Kurt Johnstad
Starring: U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen, Roselyn Sánchez, Nestor Serrano, Emilio Rivera
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence including some torture, and for language
Runtime: 110 min
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Metacritic: 42


It’s tough to be critical of Act of Valor, I’ll say that up front. This film, after all, has done something unprecedented in Hollywood films and made a film about Navy SEALs that actually stars the real life heroes; that’s right, active-duty Navy SEALs are the stars of a film that’s about a fictionalized operation like the ones these guys actually go through in real life. So there’s stuff to like about that, it’s a ballsy move at the very least, but at the end of the day that was pretty much all that Act of Valor was to me; a stunt casting sort of thing in order to make this film and get it publicity and get patriotic Americans to go see it. And as that it really worked, the film opened atop of the box office, audiences handed it a very strong A grade on CinemaScore and it’s already made over $46 million on its $12 million budget.

It just wasn’t enough, not even close. The film is obviously super reverent about these men, and rightly so because they’re pretty heroic guys; but this is supposed to be a movie, and it always feels like a pretty elaborate PSA for the Navy. The men we see on-screen have been trained to fight by the very best and for a really long time, but they haven’t been trained in acting for a second of their lives, and that comes across in every single dialogue scene here. The action sequences are cool to watch because these guys are their own stunt doubles and you get a sense of what they’ve been trained to do, but as soon as they’re done we get some horribly stilted performances, which is both the fault of these guys who don’t know how to act, and of the preposterous script that’s chauvinistic and clichéd to its core, and, for something that reads as a recruiting poster, not all that sensitive towards the complexities of war.

I just never really knew exactly what to make of this film. As a tribute to what these men do, it’s effective enough and part of me wanted to admire this film as such, but the fact of the matter is that this was a film made to entertain, and the material we get here is extremely thin and just super manipulative, and I never could really get behind these men because of the fact that the storyline was so crappy and that they couldn’t act always distracted me a bit too much. It’s a good thing, though, that at least they knew to focus on the action far more than on the actual human story.

This film apparently was indeed made as some kind of recruitment film, and as such it didn’t go by the usual rules the Department of Defense sets on films, and the film starts with the directors talking about it to you directly. And you get their passion for this project, for using real Navy SEALs; but in the end this was used as an action thriller the likes of which we’ve seen before; we get a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA operative that results on the discovery a worldwide threat that a team of elite Navy SEALs must now go in to stop from happening. Yes, these guys make for great action heroes, because that’s what they are in real life, but when the action stops for a second and they have to bring the human element on-screen they as uncomfortable to be in front of the camera as any actual actor would be to be in enemy territory.

The names of the Navy SEALs acting here aren’t revealed for security purposes, but I think that sort of veil of anonymity fell on the characters they had to play as well. The characters had no real personality traits at all, they spoke in trite dialogue that was the same as every one of their counterparts and they have no background story. This is a film that was originally intended to play as a recruitment film, and it’s as though they never altered the path they would follow for that, and those bits actually are the ones that work the best here, the ones in which we get to know the details of the job and how it’s all done

One problem, though, is that even though it’s still sometimes fun to see those sequences because the guys you’re seeing are the same ones that do it in real life, they’re not particularly well-staged by directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh. These two had the best men at their disposal, men who can actually do these stunts themselves, and yet they resort to handheld camera techniques and fast editing that make it tough for you to keep track of the action, which was a real pity considering what they had at their disposal.

At first I thought that not caring at all for this film would be kind of like not caring for these heroic men (the film ends with a dedication to the SEALs who have lost their lives since 9/11), but then I realized that I was wrong. The film doesn’t say much about the current state of affairs in the world, and instead has fake scenarios with cheap thrills and a manipulative scene or two. And having a simple, clichéd, and bad action movie isn’t a fitting tribute for these men.

Grade: C


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: