ACT OF VALOR
By Gary Murray
Starring Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle and Nestor Serrano
Written by Kurt Johnstad
Directed by Mike ‘Mouse’ McCoy and Scott Waugh
Running time 101 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Some will argue that the study of history is just the study of war. From the first moments of recorded mankind, historians have noted the passage of age to age by the battles that men have fought and the consequences of those conflicts. In the cinema, there have been films about war since the beginning of the recorded image. These films have crossed over just about every genre and time period. The latest to glorify the struggle of man is the Navy SEAL adventure Act of Valor.
At the beginning of the film, the directors Mike ‘Mouse’ McCoy and Scott Waugh explain that when they planned the film, the two found that the only performers who could honestly portray the heroic deeds of Navy SEAL teams are the actual brave men who don the uniform. This film is not going to have actors playing roles but the actual servicemen taking on the parts.
The film is of Navy SEAL team 7. Rorke and Dave are two best buddies and Navy SEAL members. They both have young families yet are dedicated service men. Rorke carries the flag that his father carried with him letting the audience know that the call of service runs long in these men. The SEAL Teams know that when called to duty, they may never see their loved ones again. Every little moment these men have in the normal world is cherished. The wives support their men but the look of terror is in their eyes when the SEALs leave for the call to duty.
When CIA agents are kidnapped by bad guy Christo (Alex Veadov), the team is called in to extract them. We get a giant fire-fight scene done with live rounds on what feels like actual battle conditions. This is some of the most realistic fighting that has ever been put on the screen. These men work in a very professional vein, waiting for their shot and not just spraying bullets like one sees in a modern action-adventure flick.
Soon, the guys find that Christo is part of a wider conspiracy that involves Islamic extremists. The guys in the team use different methods to track down these men before a major attack can be taken out on US soil. As the action scenes spill across the screen, the body count rises.
There are some problems with Act of Valor. While the men and women of the Navy are true in their real life roles on the theater of war stage, some of the more tender ‘acting’ moments give little satisfaction. Putting non-actors in such emotional roles just shows how amateurish the exercise becomes. The other element that just doesn’t work is the ‘first shooter’ aspect of filming. We go behind the gun along with the SEALs as they take out targets but it begins to feel more like a video game and not a movie.
The film is not all wall-to-wall action. Other than the above mentioned tender family sections, there is an interrogation moment between Christo and a Navy leader. It has the biggest ring of truth as the two men go back and forth, one trying to get information from the other. It is both a cleaver and honest moment.
The strangest aspect of Act of Valor seems that every baddie is dead with a kill-shot to the head, complete with splattering cartilage. This is a film that earns its R rating in an orgy of blood and guts. This is not a film for the squeamish. It is a very brutal exercise.
Some are going to dub Act of Valor right-wing propaganda, promoting a jingoistic world view. Both political sides have used war movies to argue their agenda. The Green Berets and The Deer Hunter are both Vietnam Era films with very different ideologies. If the film makes any true political statement, it makes a compelling argument for sealing the US borders.
As a movie, Act of Valor is an interesting, popcorn chewing bit of action that is also a two hour advertisement for the Navy. This should do for recruiting what Top Gun did for the Air Force. It has enough action to never become boring; it just needs some actors in the lighter moments.