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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Movie Review: ACT OF VALOR


"That last night at home, you think about how you could have been a better dad, a better husband, that bedtime story you should've read, or that anniversary you forgot."
-- Senior Chief Miller

Act of Valor is a 2012 war film directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh that utilizes active-duty Navy SEALs, whose full names were not released for security reasons, as the film's central actors. When an elite team of Navy SEALs led by Lieutenant Rorke and Chief Petty Officer Dave is sent on a covert mission to rescue abducted CIA agent Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez). During their rescue, they pick up a cell phone that leads to intel describing the relationship between a smuggler named Christo (Alex Veadov) and Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle), who are planning an attack of terrorism on United States soil. As the SEALs getting deeper into the thick of the plot, they face stronger and stronger opposition as they do whatever they can to keep their country safe.

When I first heard about Act of Valor, I heard a lot of buzz about the fact that the film was using acting-duty SEALs to portray the characters on-screen. At the time, I thought this was a nice idea, and I thought it might bring an added sense of realism to the film and its story. When the movie opened to generally negative reviews, however, I started to get a little worried that this somewhat high-profile flick might potentially flop with moviegoers. The film currently holds a 25% approval rating on, and that negative aspect is supplemented by the following critical consensus:
It's undeniably reverent of the real-life heroes in its cast, but Act of Valor lets them down with a clichéd script, stilted acting, and a jingoistic attitude that ignores the complexities of war.
Unfortunately for the film, I have to agree wholeheartedly with this particular sentiment.

Let's start with the screenplay. While I thought that certain moments had their own personal merit, the storyline as a whole was too outrageous to be believed. Now, the battle sequences themselves are splendidly done, and the SEALs do bring that realistic element to the screen. In a way, you can say that a lot of the action sequences provide a bit of authenticity in the film, and if Act of Valor wants to hang its laurels anywhere, it would be on those scenes and those scenes alone. However, we're getting a bit of a side story with the Lieutenant Rorke character that plods along and weighs down the rest of the film. The moment you learn about his personal life, you know exactly how the film is going to end. And it is in this way that the film becomes a clichéd shell of every other war film that's ever managed to grace the silver screen. Once you figure out the ultimately predictable finale, the film loses its spark, and it becomes difficult, and even a tad bit boring, to watch.

The second strike against the film is the acting level of the cast. While some of the career actors - namely, Sanchez, Headov and Cottle - manage to turn in decent performances, the acting aspect is where the use of real-life SEALs manages to drag the film down. Although they prove to be authentic in their battle sequences, the SEALs prove to be bad actors at best in the rest of the film. Whether this is a knock against their ability or a knock against the screenplay, I'm not entirely sure; however, some of their interactions seem so strained that it almost proves ridiculous.

Ultimately, Act of Valor does offer authentic battle scenes, and it offers a nice message about and pays great tribute to the men and women who have given their lives for their country over the years. But in a world where you have great films like 2007's In the Valley of Elah, 2009's The Hurt Locker or 2010's Green Zone that also deal with the war on terror, it's difficult to imagine that Act of Valor could ever possibly compete.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: C-
0.5 Thumbs Up

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