Filmmakers Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh make the ultimate tribute to the troops film; Act of Valor; a film that works well when it comes to showing military strategies on film in a Call of Duty fashion and a film has no problem making you feel nothing but respect for the men and women that risk their lives every day so that we can continue to live in freedom, but that’s where the compliments stop. As an actual film, with a story, dialogue, acting and coherency, Act of Valor gets an F and earns itself a dishonorable discharge.
The film stars real, active-duty Navy SEALs as they do their day-to-day missions that involve bringing in captured hostages and preventing the world from things like nuclear war. It’s real inspiring stuff that very few are cut out to do. The latest mission involves a woman who has been captured by a group of men that are planning to bring explosive bomb vests into America and set them off at dozens of populated locations throughout the country. The team must rescue the girl and find (and kill) the bad guys before it’s too late. Act of Valor starts off with a little intro from the directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh and then it jumps right into action. (Literally, the characters jump out of a moving plane to reach the target quicker and to add some cinematic pop)
From the opening credits Act of Valor briskly sets its self apart from other war films. This specific war film is more real than the others, which means the emotional punch is supposed to be stronger and the action is supposed to be that much more genuine. They use actual Navy SEALs instead of actors and they use live ammunition and real strategies used by the SEALs to make the film feel more authentic. And it works really damn well. The gunfire is noticeably louder and more forceful, making the action feel threatening. The missions are even setup like something you’d see on the screen while playing Call of Duty (character HUD’s and location markers).
But while McCoy and Waugh are so focused on getting real SEALs to reenact real scenarios, someone must have forgotten to write a script. When the film isn’t busy showing you some nifty camera techniques that might even make Neveldine/Taylor jealous, it’s just another generic war story that’s given no depth or real thought.
Captain Obvious and Lieutenant Dumb-Ass lead the SEALs with not one line of believable dialogue. I can understand the lack of acting skills from real SEALs, but that doesn’t excuse the poor writing. If the men are having troubles reading the lines wrote for them, then tone it down and focus on the action. Nothing is worse than not laughing at a joke that falls flat and feels forced and uncomfortably awkward. As for the bad guys, they fit the normal description of having a beard and a funny accent. There’s no humanity added to them because after all, they’re just faceless bad guys that need to be killed. They have no reasons or motives to why they want to kill innocent lives, and if they do it doesn’t matter because they’re going up against America and America doesn’t like excuses. Shoot first and ask questions later seem to be the motto of this film.
I’m assuming the terrorists are played by real actors, unless they somehow managed to cast REAL terrorists, which in that case this film has more balls than I thought. Chances are they’re just actors, so why not give the actual actors some lines to work with? Giving them a better motive or more time to establish their characters would have really helped add some weight to the final showdown.
Shaky cam is given a new meaning with Act of Valor. Never before had I become so lost while watching a movie. Spatial awareness doesn’t exist in Act of Valor. McCoy and Waugh must have dropped the camera a handful of times and went with it because some of the shots are so headache worthy. By the end of the film you’ve been rolled up in a rug, thrown out of a plane and launched into buildings. It’s poor camerawork that hides either the budget or the lack of creativity behind the camera.
The ending is surprisingly a step in the right direction, but even that feels like an attempt at some cheap tears. Act of Valor does a good job transferring the action of the Navy SEALs to the big screen, but its characters are either underdeveloped or over-stereotyped, which makes the film fun to look at, in doses, but it’s mostly a roller-coaster of rapid eye movement. The film also lies on the sappy stuff real heavy, hoping to collect nothing but wet tissues by the end of the film. I mostly laughed at stuff that wasn’t supposed to be funny because of how forced everything felt. If the message makes you emotional then I completely understand, but if Navy SEALs trying to act comes off as anything other than funny then you’re just kidding yourself.
Act of Valor is a neat concept that suffers where it tries to be different. The action is great stuff and impressive considering the budget they probably had to work with, but it doesn’t work as an actual film because of its talentless cast. The SEALs belong on the battlefield, not on the big screen, unless it’s a documentary.
Act of Valor – 5.5/10