Genre: Action/Thriller Director: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh Cast: Roselyn Sanchez, Emilio Rivera, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Gonzalo Menendez, Ailsa Marshall, Alex Veadov, Drea Castro Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins Rating: M18 (Violence & Some Coarse Language) Released By: Golden Village Pictures Official Website: http://www.actofvalor.com/
Opening Day: 1 March 2012
Synopsis: An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, "Act of Valor" stars a group of active-duty Navy SEALs in a powerful story of contemporary global anti-terrorism. Inspired by true events, the film combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the minute battlefield technology and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure..
Movie Review: You can’t judge ‘Act of Valor’ by conventional moviemaking standards- for the very reason that the typical movie takes the actor and turns him or her into the character, but it’s just the other way around here. Indeed, co-directors Scott Waugh and Mouse McCoy have assembled a half dozen or so active-duty Navy SEALs for this dramatization of their real-life heroism, requiring somewhat inevitably that these characters become actors in the process. Needless to say, they are bona fide Navy SEALs first and foremost, so it’s important to recognise their purpose in the film.
For the uninitiated, this glorified recruitment video for the US Navy began as just that- a seven-minute training video on the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen that the Pentagon saw which convinced them to sign off on Waugh and McCoy’s proposed fictionalised adventure. How else better to honour these men in action than to showcase them in the line of duty, the sacrifices they make to keep their nation safe and the anxiety that their families face every time they are sent out on a mission?
Before you accuse us of buying into the propaganda, let it be known that these are the men who risked their lives to kill the most wanted terrorist in the world Osama bin Laden just a few months ago, so give them the reverence where it is due. We are therefore willing to overlook the fulsome voiceover by one of the SEALs, reading out from a letter the values and spirit of these brave men that will move some viewers to tears as much as it will cause others to cringe. Thankfully, these effusive moments take a backseat once the SEALs get into the field.
To get there however, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (“300”) weaves a global terrorist plot to launch an attack on home soil that involves a Russian smuggling kingpin Christo (Alex Veadov) and a Chechen terrorist Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle). The SEALs’ first mission is to rescue a CIA agent working on the case in Costa Rica who was abducted by Christo’s men. And boy what a riveting watch it is, as the team- the leader Lt. Rorke, his second-in-command Dave, and other members Sonny, Weimy, Ray, Ajay, and Mikey- parachute to the ground, wade silently through swamp water in the cover of night towards enemy camp and then spring a swift decisive attack to secure ‘the package’.
There is an unparalleled thrill from watching the SEALs in mission mode- eschewing the Hollywood clichés of egos and spectacle, the Team instead work with elegant efficiency and sometimes with inevitable prejudice for their enemies. With their character cast, Waugh and McCoy bring an extraordinary amount of realism to the screen- and for the squeamish, you might just want to bear in mind that there is a fair amount of violence and gore in the film. It is never excessive however, and done in the name of ensuring the greatest attention to authenticity.
Keeping up the brisk pace, the SEALs are immediately sent to separate missions in Somalia and the South Pacific- the former where Shabal has loaded a private jet with fellow jihadists wearing an explosive vest undetectable by modern technology; and the latter where Christo has escaped to avoid the eyes of the CIA. Saving the best for last, Waugh and McCoy wrap up their tribute with an exhilarating finish set in and around the borders of Mexico right next to the United States. There is method and meticulousness in every one of these missions that are supposedly based on actual ops, and the effect is akin to watching an utterly captivating docudrama.
Of course, as we said earlier, the men in this film are characters first and actors second, so it’s only inevitable that when called upon to deliver Johnstad’s scripted dialogue, they come off looking and sounding stilted and wooden. Still, to fault their acting is ultimately unfitting- after all, they did not participate in this film on that basis and we don’t think you can find any Hollywood actor who can look and sound as real as they do when these SEALs are out there in the thick of the action.
That is in the end the purpose of this rah-rah celebration of a unique group of individuals- while superheroes take us on flights of fancy, these very men we see in the movie are the ordinary heroes who are, as the end credits proclaim, ‘guardians of freedom’ against the terror and tyranny out there. And watching them go about their missions only reinforces the inimitableness of these Navy SEAL characters, their accuracy and precision the very definition of art amidst the messy and chaotic nature of their work. It also makes an absolutely fascinating and edge-of-your-seat gripping watch, as close as you’ll ever get to feeling the rush of adrenaline out there in the field.
(Gripping, edge-of-your-seat action delivered as raw and realistic as it gets, this is also the closest you’ll get to see the venerable Navy SEALs in the line of duty)