Directed by: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Starring: Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez and Nestor Serrano
An elite team of Navy SEALs embark on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent. What’s unique about that? Nothing. Wait, apologies Act of Valo[u]r stars a group of active-duty Navy SEALs, the story (that’s based on true events) showcases actual, current battlefield technology and tactical strategy from the secretive world of the most elite, highly trained group of warriors in the modern military.
I appreciate the intent of Act of Valo[u]r. The audiences’ ability to discern what feels ‘real’ is exceptionally problematic for filmmakers. There’s an entire industry behind the scenes of T.V and Films of technical advisors that are on set to inform performers everything from how to hold an X-Ray, how to cook (or look like they are) or how to break into a safe. Military films especially have former soldiers on set to train performers how to hold their weapons, how to walk, how to bark orders, how to dress etc in order to maintain the suspension of disbelief that the actors portraying soldiers can innately ‘do’ the things that their characters can do.
There’s an intrinsic rich authenticity that the real life soldiers can bring to a physical action performance that actors can not. The action set pieces involving the soldiers are crisp, demonstrative of their clinical proficiency and moves with an instinctual tempo. The direction adopts the language of a first person video game at times, placing you’re point of view in the eyes of a sniper scope, a spy aircraft, or down the barrel of the soldiers breaking into a hostile location.
Unfortunately Act of Valo[u]r isn’t just a fictionalized example of SEAL exercises; it’s a story of rescue and battling a rogue terrorist cell and attempts to deliver some kind of broad anti-terrorism moral message. The narrative elements of the film fail miserably. The terrorist characters feel as though they’ve been lifted from every bad straight to video Segal flick of the last decade and the real-life soldiers in the ‘dramatic’ scenes show why they’re professional soldiers and not actors. The pro U.S rhetoric in this film is blindingly subtle. Despite being admirable, likeable people and characters, the SEALs are presented to the audience as the noblest of the noble; the most peaceful men, out defending ‘good’ against ‘evil’ (via an omniscient Voice over) and it reduced it to a palpable propagandist text.
Act of Valo[u]r feels like a war porno – without the climax. It’s devoid of a great narrative, acting and cast, in order to portray authentic modern war. If you like Act of Valo[u]r you may as well abandon drama for porn, because you don’t like how the sex scenes feel fake.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman