Act of Valor starts with a brief video intro from the directors explaining that in order to create something so authentic to an actual military experience, both in and out of combat, real Navy Seals were brought in to play the main characters. An interesting choice for sure, ends up quickly polarizing the action and the drama with the pros and cons of this decision.
In the intro, the directors describe why actual Seals and their families were chosen for the roles, mentioning that most actors have no idea what the operators and their families go through. I understand this, but unfortunately this is where the grave mistake is made. True emotion is expressed when they say goodbye to their families before being deployed, but let’s face it, these minor scenes are greatly overshadowed by the scripted moments in which it is clear that these individuals cannot act. Half the time it comes off like they are reading their lines during their Into to Acting class that they took in order to meet girls, making it glaringly obvious that real actors are needed to manipulate the audience into caring for these men. Don’t get me wrong, under the surface there is this constant knowledge that they have actually gone through things like this, which brings an appreciation to the story and scenes in which they are in danger, but this knowledge is always marred by the impossibility of getting past their lack of talent.
With the dialog and story hindered in these moments (as well as a confusion as to what was going in half way through the film), the thoughts begin to start as to how this could have been done better. For starters, it should have been put on TV because even with the higher standards of television shows today, there is still this residual understanding that film is of higher quality, especially when it comes to shows with dramatic reenactment of events. Which then leads to the idea that maybe instead of having these dramatic “cutscenes” between the fighting, it might have been a wiser choice to set up a camera and just allow the men to tell the story to it, as if they are recounting the events that happened to them.
With all the negative comments that can be made about Act of Valor, one thing is clear, other action directors and storytellers should take note in concern to how some of the action was handled here. Obviously there are plenty of explosions and shooting as opposing forces come into contact, but the details here are unmistakably realistic, leading to small moments that we have never seen before on screen. Take a scene early on in the film in which the Seals are moving towards an enemy base on the waterfront. A pair of hands rise out of the water with unclear intentions. Maybe they are going to grab the bad guy’s ankles and pull him to the water? Maybe he is going to slice through his Achilles instead of grab him? But no, we get something so much cooler. Instead of baring a weapon, these hands create a table parallel to the waters surface, and as the shot goes off from a sniper on the opposing shore, the body falls into his hands and is slowly brought to the water to avoid the splash. :O THAT WAS SO AWESOME!
Moments like these are reason enough to see this film, as well as the fact that live ammunition was used to give in an authentic look and sound that can often be overdone when reproduced through special effects. However, even the action has flaws to contend with. Something that I noticed was that there were a lot of headshots throughout the film, which my boyfriend said was just a comment on the skill of the Seals. However, he did admit to the fact that for the kill-shots we see, there sure were a lot of bullets being shot, which doesn’t add up with the talent they are trying to portray. For each headshot, how many bullets are missing their mark? Are they attempting to go for the headshot achievement? (A remark that kept going through my mind considering that the camera often, maybe too often, recreates the screen composition of a FPS game).
Because of the subject of the film and the use of real Navy Seals, it is really hard for me to decide on a final grade for this one. It is obviously flawed from start to finish as a movie, but it is hard not to appreciate what the goal of this film was. That, and the action is truly something worth seeing.
Final Grade: C-