Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Act of Valor

Act of Valor is the movie that was marketed as employing active members of the U.S. military in lead roles.  I don’t know about you, but I found this a bit confusing when the movie made its theatrical run.  I wasn’t sure if it was a  pseudo documentary based on real-life ops, a gross example of gimmicky stunt casting, or a glorified infomercial for the U.S. Navy.  It turns out that the film was probably meant to be two of the three.

The  plot of the film follows the deployment of a SEAL team after a smuggler named Christo abducts a CIA operative in Mexico.  The team and other intelligence officers follow this trail, which eventually leads from Christo to a Chechen terrorist named Shubal – a man with designs on unleashing a series of terrorists acts on United States’ soil.

Directors Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy from the outset of the project wanted to cast active Navy SEALs as protagonists because they decided it was the only way they could produce an authentic cinematic experience.  While there may have been some inherent benefits to this kind of stunt casting, the movie ultimately is saddled with the kind of subpar performances one would expect from individuals who have never acted before.  So while the action scenes feel more true-to-life, from a cinematic standpoint the dialogue and character development leave a ton to be desired. 

On the one hand I somewhat enjoyed this movie because knowing that you are watching real SEALs  lends a layer of credibility that doesn’t necessarily exist when you watch Sylvester Stallone and ten other over-the-hill actors wielding semi-automatic weapons.  But on the other hand, there is not necessarily anything in this film action-wise that you have not seen before on screen.  So while you may feel a bump from watching the Real McCoy, the protagonists don’t have the acting chops to flesh out their characters, making it difficult to become invested in the dramatic elements of the movie. 

In some ways, the movie feels more like a feature length promotional video for the United States Navy than a fictitious narrative and I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that the powers-that-be were cognizant of this when they agreed to accommodate the filmmakers.  None of this is a bad thing as there are some fantastic visuals and an attention to detail that makes the skirmishes compelling, but at the end of the day, it is a fictitious narrative and there is just not enough going on here performance-wise to truly sell the story.

In regards to the cast, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, and a handful of other professional actors flash on screen from time to time but never long enough to leave much of a mark on the proceeding.  Ultimately, their presence in this film is inconsequential as most of the heavy lifting is left to the SEALs and the merits and shortcomings of this film ultimately rest on their shoulders.

I can’t really recommend this movie, as there is just not enough there to appeal to wide audience.  If you are a hardcore fan of war movies and gun skirmishes, there may be just enough here to provide you with entertainment value.  However, if you require something more than action from a film in order to become invested in the narrative, then you will want to look elsewhere.  While actors may not provide the nuances or the same level of authenticity that active servicemen can, the good ones know how to lift a character from the pages of a script and bring them to life. 

Standout Performance: I’ll give it to Roselyn Sanchez who did was the best of those with limited screen time.


Post a Comment