Film Review – Act of Valor

Act of Valor (MA)

Directed by: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh

Starring: Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Cerrano, Navy SEALs

One and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

This could be one of the most challenging film reviews to write: to pick out the flaws in a Hollywood film that was made as a tribute to the brave U.S. Navy SEALs (even starring real life soldiers) that, artistically, is one of this year’s biggest stinkers, but still remain respectful to those who fight for their country.

While no one is questioning their bravery and heroism – and surely the film makers only had the best intentions – this piece of celluloid does more of a disservice to the men and women that put their lives on the line. Hiring non-actors to struggle with clunky and hollow dialogue (that even pros like Meryl Streep would choke on) makes them look silly and putting them in flashy (albeit, at times thrilling) action sequences seems to go against the idea behind this movie.

What begins as an authentically staged rescue mission soon crumbles under cringe inducing dialogue, awkward performances and video game style action. When CIA Agent Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) is kidnapped and tortured for confidential information, a team of seven Navy SEALs, including best buddies Dave and Rorke, are sent into the jungle to retrieve her.

Kurt Johnstad’s script tries, in brief spurts, to humanise the two main officers by giving them a wife back home, one of which is pregnant, but attempts amount to zero. And by the time the squad are in the jungle and the action kicks into gear, you can hardly tell the soldiers apart, mainly because the characters are not fleshed out enough. Ultimately, among the chaos of bullets flying and grenades exploding, you don’t feel any emotional attachment to any of them or feel anything when some meet their demise.

The action scenes are, for the most part, competently made up until the directors put the camera in the soldiers’ point of view. This type of video game rip off shot – which is one of my pet hates in film – is not only an unimaginative way of putting us in amongst the action and in their shoes, but extremely lazy. How about putting us in their shoes by scripting three-dimensional characters we can relate to and hiring people who know how to emote for the camera. Is this a video game or a tribute to heroic soldiers? The line is definitely blurred.

No disrespect to those real life Navy SEALs who appeared in this film and for what they do when they are not appearing in misconceived Hollywood cash-ins like this, but if the film makers really wanted to show us the horrors of what they have to go through then perhaps a documentary approach would have been the way to go.

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