ACT OF VALOR is an odd film for mainstream release because it was originally shot as a recruitment exercise for the elite Navy SEALS. It was then decided to expand the production into a full length feature film – the plot being constructed of two scenarios. The rescue of a kidnapped female CIA operative in Costa Rica who was being tortured for information and then a related event which was the smuggling by a terror cell of 16 Filipino Muslim suicide bombers into the U.S. via underground tunnels from Mexico constructed by the drug cartels.
Following the expertly handled Bin Laden affair in Pakistan, the SEALS have developed rather a mystique and the other thing that makes this movie different to all others of its genre, is that all the lead roles are played by actual Navy SEALS, not actors. Consequently for security, either first names only are supplied or at times, no names at all.
So from a movie going viewpoint, it is hard to crit this one because the guys really cannot act. The dialogue is often stilted and they don’t know how to work the camera and project to an audience. But fair enough since that is not their thing. Amazing rescues, badass firefights, expert sniping and hand to hand combat and weapons play is however very much their thing. So while the conversational and ‘ times spent back at home in the U.S.’ scenes are poor from a thespian view, the action and combat scenes are immensely exciting and tense.
The first chapter dealing with the rescue of the CIA agent ( Roselyn Sanchez) that follows a vicious bombing at the International School in Manila, has the SEALS in a cleverly coordinated land, sea and air action and the chase through the jungle that follows this, is edge of the seat stuff. Because the agent had been working on uncovering a Jihadist plot to send suicide bombers into American cities, her rescue then leads to the SEALS race against time via the Ukraine and Mexico to catch the terrorists before they vanish in the network of tunnels under the Mexican / U.S. border. It has its fair share of ultra violent moments ( I think it may have carried an R rating in America and is showing in Oz under an MA.) The editing is calculated to plunge the viewer into the heart of the action and give you the sensation that you ‘ are there’ as it were. The fact that the SEALS, the bullets, the submarines, choppers, weaponry, covert mission protocols and explosions are real certainly gives it an edge that compensates for the wooden acting. While these two scenarios are non factual and constructed for the purposes of the film, we know that these guys have done all this and more in their careers and I must admit, if I was ever in deep trouble, I would feel hugely better if I knew soldiers of this calibre were on their way. Tough, resourceful, highly trained warriors keeping America safe.
This real SEAL deal is heavily wrapped in patriotism and noble sentiments. In an increasingly cynical world, this may be off-putting to some viewers who may find it too rah-rah and gung-ho. But it certainly gives a huge kiss of approval to the military and their most elite personnel.