By now I’m sure some of you have heard the story behind Act of Valor. The two directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, were working on a documentary short for the United States military called Navy SWCC or the Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen. After filming the documentary they got the go ahead and full support from the military to do a feature film using real Navy SEALs. With a script from writer Kurt Johnstad who worked on the screenplay for 300 they started production.
Act of Valor follows a SEAL team from their home life to deployment. This intro for their personal life is to give you a better connection to the soldiers. To see that these aren’t just silent killers but men with lives and families. From a married man with five kids to one whose wife is expecting their first child. It also gives us the diverse background that each one comes from. The plot of the movie is pretty basic. If anything I would have to say that it comes from a video game like Battlefield 3. Where we globe trot around the world as they unravel a terrorist cell headed for the United States. It begins with a suicide bomber in the Philippines. In Costa Rica a CIA agent named Lisa Morales, played by Roselyn Sanchez (Rush Hour 2, The Game Plan, “Without a Trace”), is kidnapped by known drug smuggler and arms dealer, Christo, Alex Veadov (Air Force One, We Own the Night, Drag Me to Hell). The SEALs first mission is to go in and rescue her. Upon the rescue they uncover a bigger conspiracy with a connection to a known terrorist, Abu Shabal, played by Jason Cottle (Wag the Dog, The Wedding Singer, Cthulhu). From there they have to uncover the terrorist plot and stop it.
Like I said, something straight out of a video game.
I’d like to point out that while this is a war movie it’s not like Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan, films I feel the need to compare it to. It’s much more realistic taken from actual SEAL encounters with full military support. The tactics and maneuvers are professionally done, and aren’t given over to typical Hollywood showmanship. Because of this the movie is seriously intense. I had to remind myself to breathe a couple of times.
There were several aspects I really loved. One was the first person shooter style they used for several scenes. Kind of like the movie Doom. Only where Doom made it more like a video game Act of Valor makes it feel like you’re the one holding the gun. Particularly when you can hear the soldier breathing. When you stop breathing as they enter a room you notice that they’ve also stopped breathing. It also gives a perspective as they look down the scope. Focusing on whether a person is an enemy or a civilian and deciding in a split second if they should shoot or not. The other thing I liked was watching them move in unison as a team. Something I’ve never really experienced watching other movies. The silent communication was an amazing aspect.
When I first saw the trailer for the film I thought it was a gimmick. I’m glad I actually gave it a try.
My biggest question would actually be to the soldiers who played the roles. Especially when one of them has to die in combat or get injured. What that must have been like for them? To pretend that something happens to you that you would never want to happen to you? I just feel like that would have been a total mindfuck.
Of course the acting isn’t phenomenal. These guys aren’t professional actors, but they still do a better job than a lot of B movie actors I’ve watched. The thing is you aren’t really watching this movie for the dialogue. You watch these guys do the job they are paid to do and risk their lives doing. In that regard I have nothing but respect for them.
A couple of other faces you will recognize are Nestor Serrano (The Insider, Lethal Weapon 2, The Day After Tomorrow) as CIA agent Walter Ross, and Emilio Rivera (Traffic, Collateral, “Sons of Anarchy”) as Sanchez.
If you want to watch a realistic combat movie this one is most certainly for you. I’ll even tell you one of my favorite scenes. A man is standing on a dock when a SEAL slips up behind him in the water and raises his arms. A sniper takes him out and the SEAL catches him before he hits the water and makes a splash. That was eerily creepy.
Also, the ending is particularly inspiring and heartbreaking.