Act of Valor started out life as a documentary about Navy SEALs but the directors came to the realization that the things the SEALs were doing were straight out of an action movie, so why not make an action movie with Navy SEALs? The result is a Call of Duty inspired tale of global terrorism with fantastic action but kind of a weak story.
SEAL Team 7 is called into action when a CIA operative is kidnapped in Costa Rica by agents working for a billionaire drug dealer/smuggler named Christo. The kidnapping is just the tip of the iceberg as the team uncovers plans for a massive terrorist strike on American soil. The story is pretty basic but it moves pretty quickly and helps keep things moving toward more action.
The benefit of having the full support of the Navy is that you get access to all kinds of awesome toys and Act of Valor doesn’t hesitate to show off all the tools in the SEALs arsenal, from helicopters to mini gun armed boats to throwable RC surveillance planes, it’s pretty amazing to see how an actual operation would hypothetically play out, albeit with some creative flair to add excitement and drama. The first operation, where the the team rescues Agent Morales, is a fantastically tense and exciting almost 20 minute sequence that would make an amazing Call of Duty level. It starts out with a stealthy insertion and ends with a balls out shoot out between trucks and boats. The other action sequences are great as well from a raid on a yacht to the final attempt to stop the villain in Mexico. All of the operations take place in countries that the SEALs would actually be called in to as well, like Mexico, South America and Africa. All of the sequences are based on actual operations as well, giving that much more authenticity and the efficiency and deadliness of the SEALs is pretty awesome to watch.
As great as the action is, the parts in between are pretty slow and cliche. It’s not quite as bad as Battle: Los Angeles, where everyone was a stereotype of the standard war movie characters, but there’s still some tried and true emotional cliches, like one of the SEALs having a pregnant wife back home. Obviously, it’s not like actual SEALs are going to be giving Oscar level performances but we’ve seen the emotional arcs of Act of Valor in pretty much every other modern war movie. Some of the SEALs do give good performances though, the standout being the old vet everyone calls Senior (I can’t remember exactly but he’s like the Chief Senior Officer or something). His interrogation of the villain Christo on his yacht is fantastic and you get the feeling that guy has done this dozens of times before. The movie also spends a lot of time with the villains without really justifying why it’s doing it. The scenes with the villains don’t reveal anything interesting about them and just continually hammer home the fact that they are evil. The few interesting characteristics, like the main villain Shalab using women as his suicide bombers, are basically afterthoughts.
The final aspect of Act of Valor that has to be mentioned is the clear inspiration Call of Duty was. There is abundant use of a first person camera view and there’s a digital overlay that pops up whenever the SEALs head to a new location. If you’ve played a lot of Call of Duty you’ll also feel right at home with the constant military radio jargon. The movie is more in tone with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare than the insanity that is Modern Warfare 2 and 3 but it’s still nowhere near the level of craziness of any of the games. If someone were to make a proper, crazy, Call of Duty movie though, Act of Valor should definitely be used as inspiration.
You’re not, obviously, going to be blown away by the acting or plot of Act of Valor but if you want a pretty kick ass military action movie that lets you see Navy SEALs in action in as close to reality as you’ll ever see, Act of Valor is definitely worth checking out.
3.5 out of 5