Act of Valor (Relativity Media)
Rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language.
Starring Roselyn Sánchez, Nestor Serrano, Emilio Rivera.
Written by Kurt Johnstad.
Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh.
It's a novel concept. Instead of hiring all those high-priced prissy-boy actors for your war film, why not have real soldiers play the roles? That's the main premise of Act of Valor, the story of a Navy SEALs team on the trail of a genocide-minded terrorist.
The story follows real-life SEALs Rorke, Dave, "Mikey", Ajay, Sonny, Ray, "Van O", "Weimy" and others as they track and fight the terrorist "Shabal" (Jason Cottle) around the globe (caveat: I'm not sure how to bill the men who play SEALs in the movie, since they are real SEALs - they aren't billed by producers).
The SEAL team is first assigned to rescue a female CIA agent who has been captured by a smuggler/terrorist named Christo (Alex Veadov), who helps supply Shabal with explosives and weapons used to kill innocent westerners. After the rescue mission in the Philippines, the team shifts its focus to tracking Christo and Shabal to Africa, the high seas and Mexico to try and stop Shabal and his followers from entering the country with explosive vests meant to blow up crowds of people in major US cities.
Their efforts culminate in a bloody battle on the US/Mexican border with Shabal's group.
Act of Valor is a unique film that is at times one of the greatest action films I've seen in recent years. The use of real military men and women in the main roles is a great benefit when it comes to the action. The bad news is, real soldiers/sailors may be great at real military action, but are a blaring liability when it comes to acting. The SEALs who play the parts put forth a genuine effort in Act of Valor, but it's readily apparent that men are out of their depth when creating a believable world for a fictional film.
The idea for making Act of Valor came after military leaders approached filmmakers Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh about creating a recruiting film. McCoy and Waugh convinced the brass that they could do better, and promised to keep things real by using the SEALs. What we get was a movie that depicts real post-9/11 SEAL missions inserted into a less than realistic story and script.
Speaking of the dialogue, the script, missions and story may be set in reality, but some of the plot could be taken from a Michael Bay movie. To my knowledge, SEALs don't make strategic global policy decisions, but take action as commanded by brass and the president. The SEALs in Act of Valor seem a little too rogue-ish for my taste.
McCoy and Waugh have touted Act of Valor as an "anti-Hollywood" film in that is takes a much needed positive look at members of the military who have been maligned during the decades that followed Viet Nam. I suppose they succeeded, but they failed in creating what could have been a very good film.
Authenticity has a price, but it's not all bad.
Despite its shortcomings, Act of Valor should leave most audiences with a new appreciation for what these brave men do on a regular basis to keep our country safe from those who wish to annihilate the West.