Where jingoism and realistic military action meet we find Act of Valor. The plot of the movie is very basic, arguably cliché. We are to follow a group of highly trained Navy Seals around the world as they try to foil the efforts of a terrorist group focused on performing a heinous act on American soil. However, Act of Valor has a different hook to get your butt in the seats. That hook is the fact that all the Navy Seals that you see in the film are real active duty guys. They are, in reality, badasses. Trained to kick ass and take names in God forsaken places around the globe. Before the movie began the directors treat us to a five-minute introduction. This was a cool idea because they give you some insight into certain scenes and how they were performed. I will not spoil that here, as I think its better to get this info when you go see it for yourself. We are also told during this intro that the soldiers’ actual families were used in the movie. Any actor could not copy their real emotion and behaviors, we are told, more on that later.
So the movie begins and we are treated to about 30 minutes of build up of the good guys and the villains. Make no mistake the directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, really make you hate the villains and feel for the band of Seals. The villains stand out more with the cavalier murderous tendencies. The Seals are painted in the absolute light of heroism. They have no faults. The villains have no redeeming qualities. This is a Cowboy vs. Indians movie but shot with real servicemen. After the story building is finished we get right to the action, and it's awesome. Scenes of sniper fire, covert take downs, and nighttime halo jumps is just the tip of the iceberg. Fans of the Call of Duty video games will be in 7th heaven. The occasional moments of first person perspective makes you feel like you are in the action. However, this is the highest point of the movie.
When the Navy Seals aren’t putting boots to asses, the dialogue is cringe worthy. I have met some hardcore military guys in my life and the dialogue in the movie is accurate to their interactions. This however doesn’t mean it translates well to the screen. The talking seems very stunted and forced. Remember none of the Seals are actors, just professional warriors. I was leery about their ability to deliver lines and sadly my lack of faith was justified. However, I give them a huge pass because it’s simply not what they are trained for. The better route would have been to have these guys do all the stunts and have actors do the acting. Earlier I stated that the soldiers’ families were used to get that real emotional edge. This was completely lacking in scenes they were featured in. The emotional scene where the guys are leaving home is anything but. Once again this is not particularly surprising. I would have done just as good if you asked me to pretend to be me in a movie. Spoiler alert, I would suck at being me.
In the end, the patriotism is cranked to 11 and we are supposed to cheer when America is kicking ass, and at times you do. I found myself sitting up when the halo jump scene takes place; thinking hell yeah! Unfortunately, when the time came for talking and advancing the plot it fell apart and takes you out of it. The good parts are great, but the bad parts are awful. Sadly, the awful overwhelmed the great. It was a valiant effort and a great concept movie, but it fails in the end. One thing that I learned is these Navy Seals are doing some things that are worthy of commending. Trying to step into the world of acting is also something they should be commended for even if it wasn’t successful.
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