The Navy SEALs have been dramatized in many movies over the last fifty years, but according to ex-SEALs, almost none of them got it right. So, when writers and directors Kurt Johnstad, Mike McCoy, and Scott Waugh were working on developing the most recent addition to the Navy SEAL filmography, Act of Valor, they realized that the only way to make the film correctly was to cast actual SEALs in the primary roles. That’s exactly what they did, and let me tell you, it’s pretty much a disaster.
Act of Valor features mostly nameless characters with absolutely no back story whatsoever. The names of the SEALs who, I guess, portray other SEALs, have been kept confidential for their own safety and the safety of their country. In short, Act of Valor has nothing resembling a plot, and it’s really not even a movie in the conventional sense of the word. There are a couple of intertwining stories, but overall, the whole thing is kind of just the SEALs going from mission to mission to mission taking orders and getting the job done.
When I say that Act of Valor isn’t really a movie, I simply mean that it’s really just a recruitment video stretched to feature length. I’m sure you’ve seen those Air Force commercials that have the transforming jet and the big load of bulls***? Yeah, well imagine that for 98 minutes, and you get an idea of how excruciating this movie is. To add to the propaganda-induced seizure that I was already having when I watched this movie, I was dawning on the realization that casting real life SEALs was an awful, awful idea. Actually, let me rephrase, I didn’t dawn on a realization, the realization dawned on me, and soon enough, it punched me in the face, because the acting in this movie is worse than a high school play. Granted, I realize that they’re not actors, blah, blah, but for God’s sake did you have to cast the most inept-looking SEALs that you could find? I mean, honestly, I felt like the directors were just f***ing with us for a good laugh.
To add to the horror is the invading patriotism that just infected every orifice of my being when I was watching this. The film was partially produced by the Navy, so it’s obvious that the Americans are going to win, but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t the most artificial piece of realistic storytelling I’ve ever seen. Not only is the plot so obvious a toddler could figure it out, but Act of Valor is so concerned with being Pro-SEALs that it sacrifices anything involving a character dilemma, a twist, or even any real interest for the sake of being patriotic. The characters are more wooden than a picket fence, and they aren’t really even characters as much as they are little Call of Duty CG creations that refuse to have a personality.
As for the directing, remember all that innovative camerawork that we saw in the previews that made us want to go see the movie? Yeah, well, the shots seen are the only shots that are even worth looking at. The rest are either shaky enough to cause an epileptic to just give up and die, or they’re used once, and then again. And again. And again. And again, until what was once an interesting way to film something turns into a cheap gimmick that will make you tired of the film’s attempt at entertainment.
My last complaint is the score. It builds tension so artificially, making it impossible to be surprised by anything happening in the entire movie. I really felt like one of those test subjects sent in to watch a series of test videos to gauge how they would fare in the mainstream audience. Act of Valor is an oddly off-putting experience that just put a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like I’m going to get a lot of s*** for hating on this movie, but it’s true. Act of Valor is an action film that almost insults SEALs instead of commemorating them like it should. And the action isn’t even that good!