Act Of Valor (2012) Short Review (R)

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW…

It took me a while to get around to seeing this one. I wanted to see it in theaters, but  for whatever reason I did not. The movie’s selling point is that this is a film about Navy SEALs where the actors playing the parts are the real deal. So the main players in the movie are not even in the credits (to protect their families and themselves since they are still active duty). I got what I thought I was going to get out of this film (both good and bad).

First, I thought the acting was probably not going to be stellar, but to be honest, you really don’t expect that in most action films, anyway. There was nothing any worse in this, than in the Expendables, for instance. Some of the actors were better than others (and I’m not just meaning the SEALs… some of them were decent). I actually think at least one of the SEALs (Senior Chief Miller) was as good as most of the actors that make a living out of acting that appear. And I sometimes forget anyway, that the way actors come off onscreen has a lot to do with the director (or in this case directors… Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh), the editing and the script. And script bad… Script very bad. The story, the premise, the plot was just fine, but as far as characterization goes… Getting to know characters. There’s none of that here. Here, one of the SEALs saying to his wife ” I love you babe” and she responding ” I love you, too” is a s profound as you’re going to get for character development. The two main villains probably have more to do in this than anyone else. For what the film is, I’m fine with that. What the wife is there for, for instance, brings me to the second thing that I expected.

With the name Act of Valor, I figured that was pretty much telegraphing what the film has to ‘say’. I really don’t think this is giving anything away, but by the meaning of those words in the title, I think it’s safe to assume going in that you know at least one SEAL is going to die in the line of duty. I hope that doesn’t sound ‘flippant’, but I think it kind of gives  away what the story is about. For me, I like to watch a movie where I kind of have to figure out what the movie is about while I’m watching it and it’s even better when it’s one of those movies where there’s something revealed right at the end that changes the way you see the entire movie. You thought it was about one thing and find out it’s about something entirely different. I think most everyone will know going in, whether I tell them so or not, that this will be a film about the cost of freedom and the small group of  individuals that may pay a higher cost. There’s one thing brought up about halfway in, that blares like a fire alarm telling the viewer exactly what’s going to happen in the closing moments. But, that’s fine, too. I expected that.

The third thing that I expected was that there were going to be some pretty cool action scenes, especially since this was filmed with the support of the military. There is certainly a lot of that. What was surprising, was that some of the best moments involved the ‘in between ‘ stuff. The preparation before the missions. The surveillance of the targets. That sort of thing. Some of that was fairly intense. The moments that were most interesting to me, however, were the little details that could have only been illustrated with the involvement of the actual SEALs. For instance, the way the SEAL at one point affirms who the hostage is in the movie. Really, I’ve never even thought that they would have to do that, but after seeing it play out, you go “Yeah, that’s brilliant.” It was these little procedural things that for me at least, set this film apart from other movies with similar subject matter.

The cinematography was ‘professional’. The movie has those greens and golden hues that a lot of films of the digital age have, but the directors used a little creativity here and there, especially on some early transitions and scene wipes. There was a little bit of that first person shooter video game style present throughout, that I’m sure is to appeal to the audience the film is intended for. The camera wasn’t static. When a  body is rolled up in a carpet, for example, the   camera winds and mirrors the onscreen revolutions. Act Of Valor is best, though, when it comes to the action sequences that it’s selling. If you’re like me, seeing a mini-gun in action is… well, it’s just really danged COOL. The dialogue is  never great, but is best when the SEALs are discussing operation procedures and absolutely the worst in the personal moments (as between the husband and wife). Those personal moments are there just to give an idea that the SEALs have lives like the rest of us, but the film is largely disinterested in that except to frame the eventual ending with. The movie isn’t about the characters, as much as the mission, I think and the importance of what’s being done. I expected all of that and I’m fine with it.

This is definitely not your typical Hollywood film featuring the military. There isn’t the hand wringing and melodramatic doubting of whether or not what they’re doing is the right thing or if any good is coming about from their actions. It’s about a group of men that have a really difficult, dangerous job. They’re fully committed to what they’re doing and some pay the ultimate price for what they believe in. If you hate the military and everything that they stand for, then all I can say is why the HELL are you even reading this review? Idiot. But, if you like action movies, then you may actually like this. I did. It’s not Shakespeare, but I’m sure SEALs aren’t trained for that kind of theater. It worked as an action film and is fairly well done for what it intends to be; an action movie that gives a layman the idea of what the SEALs do. I wanted a little more than what I got, but there’s enough here to give it at least a marginal ‘thumbs up’, so…

3.5 of 5

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