I love a good action movie and have seen more than a few in my day; however, I have never seen a movie quite like “Act of Valor.”
Now don’t mistake its uniqueness for quality because as a film this thing is a borderline mess. But as a series of incredible action sequences held together by little more than a plot so thin it makes an episode of “24” look like “All the President’s Men,” it is incredible.
What makes “Act of Valor” so unique is that it stars active-duty Navy SEALs doing a whole lot of impressive Navy SEAL stuff like sniping bad guys and blowing up jungle compounds. Because the SEALs in the movie are on active duty none of their real names can be used (but their faces can?), but it also means they actually know what they are doing, well, at least when they have a gun in their hands.
The performances are rough, which is to be expected because these guys are soldiers and not actors. It is awfully uncomfortable because you are rooting so hard for them to do well. It’s kind of like watching your dad perform in a skit at the church talent show, all you can do is quietly cringe and hope for the best.
The good thing is that there isn’t a whole lot of acting because of the silly little plot — which involves terrorists trying to sneak suicide bombers into the U.S. — hardly matters at all.
Because the Department of the Navy clearly saw the recruiting potential of this movie, the full force of the United States Military was at the disposal of the filmmakers.
This means lots of jumping out of planes and cool shots of submarines, swift boats, helicopters, aircraft carriers, and some weird little mini-sub thing straight out of a Bond movie that I didn’t even know we had. Hollywood is good at portraying military might, but not as good as the Pentagon.
Plus a lot of the action scenes feature live-fire which means real bullets, real rockets, real tracer rounds, and real big booms.
Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh use a lot of hand-held cameras to put us in the action as we follow the SEALs on their efficient tactical maneuvers. Early in the film, the SEALs go to rescue a captured CIA agent from a heavily armed compound in Costa Rica in what is probably one of the greatest action sequences ever committed to film.
These are the dudes who killed Bin Laden and takedown Somali pirates for breakfast, so to see the real guys in action, even in a movie as ridiculous as this, is a sight to behold.
In the Costa Rica scene, there is a moment where a pair of hands rise silently out of the water just before a bad guy on a dock is shot by a SEAL sniper. The hands catch the body before it hits the water, thus preventing a splash that would alert the other bad guys. That degree of deadly efficiency is so cool it is worth the price of admission alone and makes you really glad these guys are on our side.
Look, there’s not a lot in “Act of Valor” that works as a movie and you can even make the argument that it is nothing more than shameless propaganda. However, so much of it is unprecedented in the history of action movies (with the exception of the bad acting, for example, see: Segal, Steven, or Van Damme, Jean-Claude) that die-hard action fans will find it worth their time.
For everyone else the movie just wants you to be sure you learn one very important lesson: do not screw with Navy SEALs. But then, you already knew that.
“Act of Valor” is rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language.