Act Of Valor (2012) Directed by Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh. Written by: Kurt Johnstad. Starring: Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez and Nestor Serrano. IMDB says: “An elite team of Navy SEALs embark on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent..”
Act of Valor began four years ago as a recruitment film to get people interested in the Navy Seals. Much to the chagrin of the Navy, the SEALs have been kind of a big deal lately, especially since all that Bin Laden drama. So this low budget, small film, has gone gangbusters and is opening in over 2,500 theaters. I have to be honest though, it really is a great film – who knew Navy men could act?
So the film starts with an explosion killing a bunch of random children, the rest of the film is centered around an elite team of Navy SEALs tracking that baddy around the globe and preventing his inevitable terrorist attack on the US. All of the primary actors are active duty Navy SEALs, and that is definitely felt throughout the film, both in good ways and bad. Early in the movie, you are introduced to the team’s lieutenant and his chief. The film was prefaced by a message from the directors, giving a little back story about each of these guys. Both are family men, the chief has 5 children and the lieutenant just learns that his wife is pregnant with his first child. As the men leave for their deployment and say good bye to their loved ones, you can truly feel the emotion, and from what the directors say, the tears you see on screen are real and unrehearsed. The flip side to this coin is that the actual acting/dialogue doesn’t always feel exactly natural. These guys are not professional actors, they kick ass and chew bubble gum for a living, so don’t expect Marlon Brando on the screen. That being said, the Chief narrates bits of the film and actually does a pretty good job with his gruff rugged voice. Along with that, the dialogue during the action scenes just feels real and apparently that’s what the other military men who watched the film felt also.
One scene that was especially memorable was entirely improvised by one of the SEALs. The senior chief interrogates one of the main villains and actually injects some comedy into an otherwise sad and actiony film. Speaking of action, that’s what this film is all about. The directors relied on the Navy to provide a lot of the sets, using actual training locations to film most of the sequences. In fact, the reason this movie took 4 years to make is that the producers had to wait for the Navy to be doing certain training exercises to be able to get the scenes/locations they wanted. They even board an active submarine during part of the movie. Another nifty fact about this movie is that it is almost entirely accurate. Again, the Navy provided most of the tactical planning so the way these guys perform their mission is just like they would do in real life.
I really have to hand it to the directors for the cinematography. A lot of the action is shot from the SEALs perspective using helmet mounted cameras which really puts the audience in the operators shoes and honestly comes off feeling like a video game. They sort of play into this with some of the on-screen information bits, for example showing the SEALs names and histories, or the maps the occasionally show up to let us know where the team has moved to. The whole thing feels very Call of Duty/Battlefield-ish which for me was actually really enjoyable. I can see how this could potentially turn some people off to this movie, but it’s something different and it fits with what you’re seeing on screen. Calling this film a masterpiece may be a little much, but it’s very well done and it’s very unique, who else ever dared put a lifelong SEAL in front of a camera for 2 hours? Who else is willing to blur the lines between a video game and a movie, and make the viewer feel like they are right there in the action? This movie is action packed and really tugs at the heart strings (ps, you will cry during this movie), it’s a winner in my book.
Act of Valor is a movie that follows the personal active duty lives a group of Navy Seals who are charged with the duty of preventing a terrorist attack on US soil. The film is a pretty standard Military-based action movie; they go in, complete the mission, and kill a shit ton of people along the way. What does set Act of Valor from the pack is the directors’ uses of actual Navy Seals in lieu of actors. It was a gamble, but it really paid off. Act of Valor gives you real Seals, real military tactics, and real bullets (yes they used live rounds); the only thing the movie didn’t give you was real good acting. The Seals did an amazing job bringing realism and depth to the mission scenes, but fell a bit flat when it came to personable social interactions between each other and their families (which were also real). As the movie goes on, the Seals either become better actors or you just get used to their acting style. I don’t want to harp too much on the acting because A. these guys aren’t real actors, B. the overall movie isn’t compromised by it, and C. they could kill me in my sleep with pocket lint and splenda packet. By the end of the movie, you are totally emotionally tied into the characters and feel like a part of the team. In conclusion, Act of Valor plays like a live action Call of Duty game but vastly more entertaining, a solid action movie.