Movie Review: Act of Valor

With Call of Duty and Battlefield and whatever other war games you have nowadays that are pushing realism to it’s fullest extent, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood jumped on board and gave it a go. What follows is a movie that will be hated by the critic in us, but loved by the patriotic side. The film itself, so-so; while the attempt is an admirable one.

Act of Valor is the story of a Navy SEALs team sent to rescue a CIA agent taken hostage by a terrorist cell. The terrorist’s leader is a man not to be taken lightly and always seems to be just out of reach. After the rescue, the team realizes that their mission was just the beginning, as a plot to do far worse damage begins to unravel.

If the plot I’ve laid out seems to be a bit brief, it’s probably due to the fact that story is not what the film makers planned on showcasing. If you’ve heard anything about this movie, chances are it had to do with the fact that active Navy SEALS were not only consultants on this project, but are also the lead actors. You could probably take it one step further in saying that the SEALs are the movie. Everything you see happen, from the non-glorified bullets to the head, down to the way one SEAL shoots a man as another has gone behind him in the water to catch him so the mission can remain a stealthy one- it all feels legitimate.

None of the soldiers’ names would be released for protection and so forth but one enjoyable scene has an interrogator interviewing the terrorists’ financial backer. It’s probably the closest scene in the entire movie to a Hollywood-style interaction, but just knowing that the Navy was so involved, I can’t help but think maybe interrogations can be as intense as this movie makes them out to be. If you’ve ever watched a movie involving a widely known profession with a person in that profession, you will hear that casual moviegoer become a critic like his job depended on it. And very few times is that movie accurate. Backdraft (1991) is the first thing that comes to mind but television’s countless crime shows are all guily of taking multiple liberties in the name of exciting crime/drama. Act of valor is not a suspect of  this. They let the real-life feel and the blunt (but not excessive) violence speak for itself.

The real issue in this film is not the action’s realism, but the acting. Now, when this has been brought up by anybody around me, it’s met with quick, offended remarks like, “But they’re active duty Navy SEALs!” As if that makes their acting any better. In all honesty, you’re going to like this movie or you’re not, regardless of the acting, but to pretend acting doesn’t matter in a movie is to say that peanut butter doesn’t matter in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This film is an exception though in the sense that I have a hard time judging it as harshly as I would say, a Channing Tatum movie. Good Lord, he’s awful. Not to mention, I can’t imagine the soldiers who made this movie sitting around fretting about what critics will think of them. I assume they just took the chance to be apart of a unique brand of storytelling and a new experience, not to win Oscars. But if you do happen to hear someone criticize the acting, don’t immediately jump to the idea that they hate their country.

Even with the negative aspects to this film in mind, it is nice to watch an Action movie with the glamour taken out. Nobody here is particularly beautiful, nor dramatic. Gunshots, once again, feel impactful and hard hitting and as an American, it does make me think about the crazy things that happen on a fairly standard basis that in many cases, we just don’t think about.

With an ending that the critic in you will see coming a mile away, you’ve still got to hand it to the man whose idea it was to praise the Navy in multimillion dollar production, because that’s just money in the bank. Not to call the paying customer a sucker, it’s simply to say that a movie with this kind of appeal will have an immediate fan base with the military and the like minded. This one is going to be critic proof, I guarantee it. Critics will tear it apart while the general moviegoer will eat it up. The only question is, which side will you agree with?

Stars: Alex Veadov, Rosalyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano

Rated R for violence, language. Run time 111 mins

Plays like: Tears from the Sun (2005), Black Hawk Down (2001)

Grade: C

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