Movie Review: Act of Valor, an Excellent Recruitment Video and a Subpar Movie

As a no-holds-barred recruiting video, Act of Valor kicks all sorts of ass. As an actual movie, however, it barely coheres. Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh’s film about a crack team of Navy SEALs uncovering and undoing an international drug-and-terror network before an attack on U.S. soil offers us a compelling first: It stars real-life Navy SEALs, often using live ammunition. These soldiers are so real, we’ve been told, that the film can’t even list them in the credits. (Instead, the end credits features a roll call of SEALs who’ve been killed in the line of duty, with a somewhat unintentionally ominous shout-out to all those who will.)

So, what does a movie starring real-life Navy SEALs doing (sort of) real-life Navy SEAL things look like? Well, not that much different from some video games, it turns out, but there’s definitely a charge that comes from watching the real pros do their thing. They have a certain no-nonsense confidence that’s bracing to those of us so used to the pretend toughness of recognizable Hollywood faces. They’re assertive with their jargon, and the film is full of language it bravely refuses to define: I still have no idea what "sterile aircraft" or "containment element" means. The cleanly shot and edited battle scenes are impressively rousing, not the least because they tend to avoid movie-friendly acts of individual heroism and instead give us scenes of genuine teamwork. (In the movie’s best moment, an American sniper takes out a bad guy by a pier while a pair of hands reaches out of the water to grab the body so it doesn’t make a splash and alert the other baddies.) Read More...


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