There is something really cool about watching a movie where military operators infiltrate the enemies backyard and takes care of business. This normally involves explosions, hand to hand combat scenes, high-tech gear, cool hand signals to their teammates, and guns. Lots and lots of guns. As far as I’m concerned, movies with hot guys blowing shit up is a straight up win for me and it’s something I’ll pay to see over any other genre. Except science fiction, but that’s a post for another day.
Normally these types of films have some well-known actor cast in the lead and the film, and all of its action, is centered around that one person. This is where Act of Valor sets itself apart from those films. Instead of watching well-known actors blow shit up, we’re watching an honest to God Navy SEAL team do what they’ve spent years of their lives training for and could probably do in their sleep. They aren’t actors. They’re operators. The idea of using actual professional is awesome and interesting, but could it possibly work? The directors of this film, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, took a chance, but the question is, did it pay off?
It all boils down to personal opinion, but in my opinion, hell yes it paid off. Originally designed as a recruitment film, but expanded to be a full length feature, the film follows SEAL Team 7 as they traverse the globe on what is originally a rescue operation that turns into a race to stop a terrorist from infiltrating US borders and unleashing terrorist havoc.
The plot sounds thin and trite, and to be honest it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The difference here is the way the story is told, and the methods used to tell it. This is a tough review to write because anyone with any connection to the military will most likely connect with this film on some level. I come from a family with a line of military dating back to World War II and perhaps even before so I’ll admit, I’m a little biased. I admire what these guys do. To see it up on-screen and know that they do this for a living, and actually used live ammunition during production just makes it that much more real.
From an average movie-goer standpoint, there are positives and negatives to this film. Nothing compares to the action sequences this film has to offer. They’re big, bold, white-knuckle action and what you see on-screen will leave you asking yourself “Do they really do that??”. It’s actually a question I asked a few times. Lucky for me I was sitting next to Roomie, who is a bona-fide Navy man. According to him, what was depicted on-screen was pretty much on target. Especially in regards to one incredibly impressive submarine boarding scene that left my jaw on the ground. Roomie simply nodded and said “Yep, that’s what they do.”
The acting however, left something to be desired, but I think you have to take into account that these guys aren’t actors. Some of the dialogue may have felt a little stiff and forced, but to be honest, I didn’t really care. While the film shows the whole team as well as their support unit in action, the bulk of the story centers on two guys; LT. Rorke and Chief Dave. There is an attempt to engage the audience with these guys on a personal level by showing a bit of home life, giving some family history and showing them in non-combat situations. While the lack of acting experience didn’t bother me in the slightest, some may feel the attempt to engage is forced and unsuccessful. Roselyn Sanchez (Rush Hour 2, The Game Plan) and Nestor Serrano (24, The Day After Tomorrow) are the only familiar faces you’ll see and the best of the acting comes from them, but I’ll give LT and Chief, as well as the rest of the team kudos and if I’m being honest, some of the best lines came from the Master Chief. He actually seemed to be the most natural, and was pretty humorous to boot.
The main star is the action. The way in which the action pieces are filmed is frantic, kinetic and at times dizzying. If you’re sensitive to the shaky camera effect, parts of this film may bother you. I know they bothered me. There were a couple of scene where I had to look away, but I did find the use of the first person shooter aspect to be kind of cool. I’m not much into video games, but these scenes in which that style was used made me feel like I was in one.
Some viewers may be irritated with the fact that the film doesn’t delve into the terrorist’s motivations or with the fact that the character development is rather non-existent. Some may even go so far as to complain how it just showed the team moving from one location to another without much explanation. I would argue that this actually adds to the realism of the film. Military personnel are sent from one mission to another at a moments notice without explanation. The film used real SEALs, why not actually show how quickly they have to switch gears.
On the surface, this film is a style over substance affair…as far as movies go. It’s a slick, mostly fast paced action film that has ridiculous action set pieces that aim, and succeed in placing the viewing on the front lines. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is the film for you. I’m sure there are those out there shredding this film because the acting isn’t great, but there is one indisputable fact: the guys that do this job are nothing short of amazing. The military special operations teams have been glamorized in various Hollywood films over the years and you never know what is actually based on fact or what is based on fiction. What Act of Valor provides, is a dose of realism in what they actually do. I had a healthy amount of respect prior to seeing this film, and now that I’ve seen it, I have even more. In the end, I felt that Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh scored a big win with this film and I loved it. Hopefully, whether you walk away liking this film or not, you’ll at least walk away with respect for those who do it.
If you’re lucky enough to live by a theater that hosts D-Box seating, I would recommend seeing this film in those seats. I opted to not, and am actually thinking about double tapping this film just so I can get the experience of it in MFX.
Check out the trailer if you need more convincing.Tags: Act of Valor, Mike McCoy, Navy SEALs, Scott Waugh, Spec Ops