“Act of Valor” was born not in Hollywood, but in the Pentagon. It was commissioned by the Navy’s Special Warfare Command and its success will be measured not in box-office receipts, but in the number of new recruits it attracts to the Navy SEALs.”
“Act of Valor” began as a film project for the US Navy Seals. After working with them closely on a training video, filmmakers Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh conceived of the idea of a full length motion picture revolving around special forces tactics. The Navy was quick to agree, as detailed by the Huffington Post article above.
But above and beyond the discomfort I have with a Military recruitment video masquerading as a piece of fictionalized entertainment, and selling tickets at the megaplex, “Act of Valor” was painful.
It was an excruciating exercise in watching people who are not actors acting off of a script with all the nuances of a new, uncolored child’s coloring book, directed by men whose only directorial credit is the aforementioned training video.
The world of “Act of Valor” is a two-dimensional one. The villains are cartoon characters. Seriously, Sascha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator” character would make a more subtle villain than the ones in this film. Literally the movie pits the SEALs against latin american drug cartels connected to Islamic Jihadist terrorists. Together, the villains here literally blow up school children, torture women and try to smuggle explosives into America. I was surprised they didn’t have them burning flags. The heroes are set up just as cartoonishly as the villains, with the one solider we’re shown with a home life having a pretty, young, pregnant wife. She needed to bake him an apple pie and leave it on the windowsill to cool. If they had intercut that with the Jihadists burning flags, the heavy handed symbolism here would have been complete.
It all fits right in with the rest of the jingoism here, though. There’s voice overs about sacrifice, reading warrior poetry, spouting military catchphrases about honor and sacrifice. After which they go right into military briefings about targets, mission parameters, extraction points, etc.
One would think that once the requisite set-up scenes and plot constructs and characters and such were all out-of-the-way and the action kicked in, that the movie would be fine. I mean the action of the film was its chance to be special at least, these are ACTUAL Navy SEALs, and their REAL tactics, right? Unfortunately, apparently movies and video games have been ripping off military tactics for years, because there wasnt anything here which was unique. There was one moment where a sniper took out a target on a dock, and a submerged squad member caught the target prior to his body hitting the water so it wouldn’t splash… that’s the one moment that I felt had “never seen” anyone do that before. Aside from that, all the jargon, the mini sitcom briefings, the formation assaults – we’ve seen them! The specialness of the showing “Active Duty Navy SEALs” and their actual tactics vanished very quickly when it became apparent that it they didn’t have anything to offer above and beyond what we’d already seen in “Black Hawk Down” or “The Hurt Locker” or the “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” series of videogames.
Who knew, but Hollywood actually makes better action scenes than our military…
There is an elaborately filmed military funeral towards the end of the film. And it reminded that many people have and do sacrifice their lives for our country, and that that sacrifice does deserve to be honored. This isn’t the way though.
“Act of Valor” is an unrepetant recruitment tool that wants to charge you $14 at the gate. Once inside you’ll be treated to the most wooden performances ever, portraying a flat-line oversimplified story, starring effigies of the worst modern American international “bad guys”, serving to set up a series of nondescript action sequences with nothing new to offer, all coated with a layer of militant, patriotic propaganda coated on top. It’s all a thinly veiled attempt to glamorize joining the special forces.
I don’t know how it will do on its recruitment mission. But as a MOVIE? It is an ABJECT FAILURE.