ACT OF VALOR
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
I’m not in the military, and aside from a couple brief service tours by some relatives decades ago, my family isn’t in the military. However, I greatly respect our men and women in uniform. These feelings put me in a quandary for “Act of Valor.” It’s easy to praise the Navy SEALs with this movie, but it’s also challenging to be critical of their involvement.
The big catch to “Act of Valor” is that it uses active duty Navy SEALs to play the main roles in the film. This was a big gamble for the directors, who made the decision after doing the research for the film with the Navy. To a degree, it makes sense, because the story is about Navy SEALs as they try to take down an international terrorist who is smuggling undetectable bomb vests into the country.
The use of real Navy SEALs made the action realistic, and it also resulted in a cast of experts who would be sure the mission as truthful as possible. There were none of the standard cliches we see in war films which put the characters or the mission in danger for lesser concerns. Plus, the use of live ammunition in key scenes made this one of the most visceral military experiences to watch.
However, the use of real Navy SEALs meant that the acting isn’t there. At times, it’s downright horrible, especially in the opening narration which slathers on the cheese more than you’d find on gas station nachos. Additionally, having the real SEALs puts the entire film in the mode of being to polite. There’s no criticism of the military or American directives at all. It’s overly patriotic at times, and that does get in the way as the SEALs lay waste to the strawman villains.
In reality, the military and its missions are messy and often with reasoning in shades of gray. That’s not the SEALs’ fault, but putting them in the center of everything this film is about makes the movie play out more like a propaganda film or a recruitment video.
Still, the action is amazing, and as a military thriller, “Act of Valor” works far better than it should. It’s only at the dialogue moments where it feels like a direct-to-video production paid for by the military.
The Blu-ray comes with a nice selection of bonus content. Basic features include a director’s commentary, deleted scenes, plus a Keith Urban music video and the making of the video. Thirty minutes of interviews with the real Navy SEALs playing the roles in the film are also included. Additional featurettes include “Directors’ Introduction,” “Making of Act of Valor,” “Real Bullets,” “Real SEALs” and “Silent Warriors.”