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Act of Valor Movie Review

February 26, 2012 1 comment
Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

An elite SEAL team is tasked with recovering a captured CIA agent. They stumble across intelligence which leads them on an international man-hunt for a terrorist who is plotting strikes within the US.

The movie overall has a tough job of walking the line between being action-packed and realistic. The film uses active/real Navy SEALs, which causes a small hit in the acting department. Lines are delivered like real human beings having a conversation and not with over the top drama like most war movies- even in combat they get on with soldiering and never have that hysterical “Oh no, what do we do now?!” moment. It’s like we are an invited guest overhearing the military briefings and are eavesdropping in on intimate conversations with the team members. This works out well as it builds a sense of intimacy between us; the viewing audience, and the SEALs.

Act of Valor follows many real military protocols and it was nice to hear the proper and more correct use of the phrase ‘Frag-Out’ as opposed to “Fire in the Hole”, which is used in most movies. They took a few liberties by showing the SEALs acting without air support for several of their missions and having this single unit deployed for the entire movie -on missions spanning the globe. I guess we don’t have that many SEALs after all- maybe fitting since they do say “Damn Few”. To explain the limited use of Air Calvary, one officer explained that they did not want another “Blackhawk Down” and so it was boots on the ground for the entire mission. Nice reference.

 The Video Game Connection

Many other reviews are calling this movie an Army Recruitment commercial. I didn’t see that at all. I felt a sense of pride for our armed forces and took a second look at the kinds of sacrifices our men and women are asked to make as part of their service. Top Gun was the kind of movie that made you want to fly a jet by the end. Hell, they started putting recruitment booths outside the theaters when that movie hit full momentum. Act of Valor made me want to play a game like Call of Duty or anything where I get to rush buildings and shoot terrorists. They even placed the camera at the top of the barrel like a first-person shooter in many of the action sequences. So I’m already saying I’m surprised this movie doesn’t tie in to a video game. Seems like an obvious opportunity.

 Extra Points Awarded for avoiding these clichés …

1) One dimensional Characters. Each member of the Seal team was somewhat similar to each other and were all normal men. This eliminates broad character extremes like ‘The Angry/Gung-ho Soldier’, ‘The Jokester’, and ‘The Coward’. The Stern/Stoic Captain, ‘The Sensitive Journal Keeper’, ‘The A-hole (who always lives), The Goodie (who dies) and ‘The Psycho’.

2) The leader or captain who cares more about the men than the mission. *Probably not the guy you’d put in charge of a mission where saving his soldiers would mean the death of many more, usually including his men eventually.

3) The General or commander who cares more about the mission than the soldiers, even when his disregard for their lives actually jeopardizes the mission.

4) One super soldier killing an incredible amount of enemies- especially if he’s about to die and also Act of Valor avoided weapons with unlimited ammo.

5) Jar-head soldiers who only care about killing and getting laid. For once, it’s not the girl back home; it’s the wife and children back home. That adds a whole new dimension to what’s being sacrificed by simply being active- way beyond just living and dying on a mission.

6) Cursing to be ‘realistic’. There are professionals who have respect and a high regard for all the other branches so there was no slight to the other branches and the language was relatively clean.

 The Atmosphere

The soundtrack and sound effects are a highlight in this movie. I saw Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn starring Ryan Gosling and felt like the movie grabbed my stomach and wouldn’t let it go until the end. I had a similar feeling with Act of Valor due to its near-perfect pacing and tense and suspenseful atmosphere. Side note: That great rap song used in the trailer does not appear in the movie (unless it’s tacked on at the end of the credits) nor does it seem to be on the soundtrack. And from what I understand the soundtrack is comprised of country music. Surprising- since the instrumental music and incidental tones in the movie were epic and orchestral in nature.

Politics is a small issue in Act of Valor. The burden of the bad guy falls on two characters. A smuggler names Christo and the old-school Jihad terrorist, Abu Shabal. The Russian Christo is given a bit of humanity by showing that he has some sensibility and sensitivity. The main terrorist Shabal is pretty much an animal for all intents and purposes and we never find out why or how he got to be that way (do you really care? Didn’t think so). If you have strong feelings either way about US overseas policy, you know whether or not you should be seeing this film. Aside from that, it’s not the job of any SEAL to figure out just how evil or justified the bad guy is. For most movies, you can put a names and faces on the enemy soldiers to let us know that war is bad and there are real people on the other end of those guns. Terrorists will not get any such treatment so do not include that as poor character development as a criticism of Act of Valor.

Overall, I enjoyed Act of valor and would recommend it to anyone who wants to a solid action movie that’s heavy on the realism. If you want to see a more dramatic focus on the individual then I recommend The Hurt Locker. If you want to see more of a documentary, I suggest Restrepo. I am not a movie critic; I am simply reviewing a movie.

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