Act of Valor: Movie Review

I caught this movie with my brother on a 50 percent discount promo using our E-plus cards, and only had a faint idea what it was about before I entered the cinema. I wasn’t going to watch another Ice Age movie (even if  its predecessors were not half bad) so I thought this low budget movie based on real life missions of US Navy Seals was worth a shot.

Act of Valor stars real life Navy Seals in the movie. Their names are not reflected on the film’s credits but I guess the filmmakers were gunning for authenticity, leading them to this unique decision. In this movie, Lt. Rorke, an expectant father, is tasked to lead the elite Seal Team Seven in a rescue mission to extract a CIA agent who is being held captive by a drug cartel in Costa Rico. His team includes his best friend and second in command Chief Dave, as well as several other veterans who have more or less experienced the devastation of war. Staging the sensitive operation in the jungle, where the agent was being tortured, the team succeeds in their mission but find themselves being tapped in a subsequent assignment. It turns out that agent was able to find a connection between the drug cartel and a high profile terrorist group led by extremist Abu Shabal and the Seals are left with no choice but to end a terror plot against key cities in the United States.

I must applaud the idea of making a film about the lives of American soldiers who put their lives at risk on a daily basis to keep their country safe from threat. I guess, at the end of the day, soldiers of any race, as well as their families will connect to this movie. The film is a great honor to their efforts and their sacrifice. I must say that the film was indeed well researched and the cinematography was top notch for such a meager budget.

In general however, my main problem with the film was that it was trying so hard to stick to reality that it forgot that audiences who will come to watch the movie are not all military oriented. The level of technical jargon was so high, especially with the mission briefing, that regular folk such as myself often check out until the conversations proceed at a more understandable level.  The script was also pushing the sacrifice angle so hard that it gets to the point of being cheesy instead of sympathetic.

I thought that the relationship between Lt. Rorke and Chief Dave was a good idea but in execution, it was too played out. At some point , it seemed like they were overreaching in an attempt to sell the drama which would have had a different effect if they were trained actors. I am not blaming these guys, and in all fairness, they did fairly well considering they did not want to appear in front of the camera in the first place. They mostly talked about issues at home and their strong bond that I thought would have connected better to the audience if they showed more scenes of them looking out for each other in combat. They had a few good moments on the field.

I suppose that given that the stars were not real actors, the best scenes are actually the ones featuring them in combat. Audiences could see that they were really comfortable in action and this made the action scenes come alive. And this is one aspect of the movie that totally popped out for me, and they totally delivered on the action, the suspense, and the drama on the field without even trying.

All in all, Act of Valor was a good effort and I salute the men in uniform who took the time to do this movie. For the filmmakers, the execution was not perfect but the movie managed to do what it was supposed to. Honor the men who protect their country and at the same time, educate the people about what sacrifices it entails to perform an act of valor. It took a lot of hard work and in the end it paid off. I just wish they took the documentary route for this one, but that’s just me.