There isn’t a single doubt in my mind that it takes a lot of courage and skill to do what the Navy SEALs as depicted in ACT OF VALOR do. I have respect for these individuals for what they do and I have no large complaints about the use of real Navy SEALs in the film. That being said, before the film played the filmmakers had a short reel explaining the choice to use the real deal here to inject realism into the events- a realism that is there at times, but also a tendency to sound wooden and forced. I applaud ACT OF VALOR for its intention more than I can for the overall execution.
A handful of real active duty Navy SEALs star and are tasked with rescuing a kidnapped DEA agent. During the rescue they acquire a cell phone that their intel manages to crack and uncover an even darker terrorist plot. From there it’s a race against time to track down the mastermind of the plot and stop the threat from reaching the United States.
ACT OF VALOR credits itself not just with using real Navy SEALs, but also live ammunition during some of the scenes. It’s a cool idea and a great way to market a film and if the live ammo aspect is indeed true it does add to some of the visceral thrills. However, the utilization of the real SEALs does sometimes make the dialogue seem natural and at times they even do a pretty good job for untrained actors- but more often than not the acting dips to stiff and unnatural. It’s not a huge knock especially if you’re mostly on board with just watching how realistic or accurate the military lingo and strategies are.
As action movies go ACT OF VALOR is neither cream of the crop or bottom of the barrel. It does however hover somewhere in the middle- the acting brings it down a bit, the film jumps all over the place and the action itself is at time hard to follow. When the camera isn’t shaking like they were filming in an earthquake or cutting back and forth barely giving one time to comprehend what’s happening there are some very cool shots. The rescue scene early on is very well done and very tense. Some of the middle scenes and end scenes are harder to get into because the camera never focuses as long an anything in particular quite like the initial rescue scene. The redemption comes in when some pretty cool Doom-esque first person shooter scenes come into play.
As someone with no military background I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the way the missions go down or the orders and strategies the characters take but I can say they seemed pretty on the nose. As with most military style films there’s a lot of terms and lingo that are basically like hearing a foreign language without subtitles. In this regard I just had to take the film at face value and with that perspective it worked just fine.
ACT OF VALOR has action, it has violence and it even has some laughs. It’s a shame that some messy editing and camera styles left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. The acting I can overlook in exchange for some of the cooler action scenes but the fractured structure lends greatly to my mixed feelings towards it. The characters are likable, some of the action looks really cool and there are some creative camera shots so overall ACT OF VALOR isn’t a waste of time, but isn’t entirely memorable either.