Being the father of an almost one year old means I don’t really get much of an opportunity to get out of the house. Thankfully, I was able to get away for a couple of hours, and what did I do with it? I caught a movie, of course! Today’s movie was Act of Valor. The Relativity Media production, which is rated R, stars Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, Alex Veadov, Emilio Riviera, and – this is no joke – U.S. Navy SEALs. There are a lot of things that can be said about a movie like this, but let’s be honest: it’s a recruitment tool for the Navy in general, and the SEALs to be specific. Being that I served 11 years in the U.S. Navy, I felt a certain way about the movie. I was looking forward to seeing the Navy depicted in a way other than either the punchline to an incredibly lame joke or cannon fodder for sci-fi blockbusters (I’m looking at you, Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay). With this movie having the full backing of the Department of the Navy (take that, Top Gun and Crimson Tide, to name a few), I wasn’t really worried about what I was about to see. I WAS worried about one thing in particular, but we’ll get there when we get there.
This is the part where I talk about the plot, right? Yeah, well…okay, I guess. The movie kicks off with a SEAL reading a letter to someone onscreen, and it is interspersed with a SEAL team getting ready to do a training HALO (high altitude low opening) jump, before being introduced to a Special Ops Chief (SOC) and a SPECWAR lieutenant in a bar. The lieutenant tells the Chief that he and his wife are expecting their first child, and to not tell anyone. Of course, the Chief tells the waitress who tells the entire bar, with everyone bursting into cheers. We then take a trip to Cambodia, where we see a terrorist bomb an international school, killing a US Ambassador who was outspoken when it came to matters of anti-terrorism. We then go to Central America, where we meet CIA Agent Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez), who is undercover as a nurse, while keeping tabs on a drug smuggler known as Christo (Alex Veadov). After a nice montage introducing us to the team, we find out that Morales was kidnapped, and the SEAL team is sent in to rescue her. Of course, there is a bigger picture that no one could see coming, and the SEALs begin to realize there is a bigger plan ahead.
What did I like about this movie? Well, the action scenes were fantastic. There weren’t a whole lot of wasted shots; it was almost always a head shot. Some of the camera angles put me in the mindset of any number of first-person shooter games; the only thing that’s missing is an HUD. The cinematography as a whole was spot-on. Whether it was the FPS view I just mentioned, the HALO jump scenes, or even a particularly good shot of a water excursion, the camera was always in the right place at the right time. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true. The score by Nathan Furst was palpable, although it did get to the point of being overly telegraphed. You could tell something serious was about to go down just by listening to the audio cues.
Now, what didn’t I like about this movie? Well, everything begins and ends with the acting, and this acting was TERRIBLE! The SEALs get a bit of a pass here, because they’re not actors. Everybody else, though? Boring to terrible. It felt like they were trying too hard, and the end result was everyone going home disappointed. The plot was so piecemeal that it really drug the movie down. It’s almost as if someone brought in all of these action scenes and then told the writers, “Write something to make sense of all this.” In this regard, you get what you pay for. There is a point that is solely telegraphed from frame one, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I missed it. It wasn’t until it happened when I went, “Oh…derp, derp.” Just as an aside, I’m gonna be completely honest: if you don’t like propaganda, don’t watch this movie. It wears its propaganda on its chest, and it doesn’t hold back.
The movie was directed and produced by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, and this film was even possible due to their previous work with SPECWAR Crewmen that used actual SEALs. They then looked at what they had and decided to make an action film out of it, with the Navy giving them the blessing to go forth and use real SEALs. In fact, it was required by the Navy to use Active Duty SEALs in the principle roles, because it was impossible to get actual actors to bring forth the physicality and realism needed for the parts.
I left out a part of the movie that I liked, and I did it by design. After the completely telegraphed ending, it says that it is dedicated to the SEALs that gave the ultimate sacrifice from 9/11 onward: then, it listed the names of the fallen. That was a nice touch that really hit home with me. Then, they dedicated it to those going downstream in the future. That was even better for me , because it honored the past and looked towards the future. Despite its inherent flaws, I did enjoy the movie. I chuckled at points, gasped at others, and rolled my eyes at a few places. But, in the end, I’m not disappointed I saw it. I’ll consider this movie three and a half times More Epic Than Love Jones. It’s a fun time, and it’s worth about 100 minutes of your time.