Act of Valor

28 02 2012

After Osama bin Laden was killed nine months ago, there were a lot of questions surrounding the U.S. Navy SEAL team that carried out the operation. Who are they? Where do they come from? What kind of training do they go through?

Act of Valor answers those questions. Produced in cooperation with real members of the Navy SEALs, it follows a team of soldiers as they fight against terrorism. This fight takes them on harrowing missions all over the world, and the audience gets an authentic taste of what it’s like to work at one of the most intense jobs in the world.

The plot isn’t complicated, but it does its job: an arms dealer has created an explosive jacket that can pass through any metal detector. As you can imagine, this is worrying for anybody who likes to fly, or spend time in public places, and it’s up to a team of Navy SEALs to prevent this technology from reaching cities in the United States.

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From Somalia to South America, the SEAL team comes face to face with terrorists in a number of intense firefights. One particularly memorable sequence had the team raiding a jungle compound to rescue a hostage. While a sniper in a ghillie suit provides covering fire, the team quietly enters the compound, neutralizing every narco-terrorist threat along the way.

Every step of the mission is meticulously planned, and even when things go wrong (which they inevitably do) the SEAL team quickly implements a backup plan.

The authenticity ends up being the most important part of the movie. With most movies about war, it’s easy to dismiss the action as being romanticized, over-dramatic, and ultimately, fake. While Act of Valor is no documentary, it has been sanctioned by the Navy SEALs as being an authentic portrayal of what they do on a regular basis.

The directors were so committed to authenticity, in fact, that they used real Navy SEALs in a number of roles. Working alongside professional actors on screen, these men are not even listed in the credits, as they wanted their names to remain a secret.

Some will like the camera angles, and others will not. The directors have used everything from gritty, first-person-shooter angles to shaky over-the-shoulder sequences to put the audience directly in the line of fire. In many movies, camera angles like this make it impossible to see what is going on. Fortunately, Act of Valor is not one of those movies, and I never had trouble following the action.

The first-person-shooter angles will delight fans of video games like Call of Duty. In fact, the entire movie is reminiscent of such games. Characters shout things like “reloading!” and some scenes – like the one that saw soldiers firing weapons out of the back of a flatbed truck – seem to be directly borrowed from Call of Duty.

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The dialogue can be painfully bad at points, but thankfully, there aren’t very many words spoken. The focus is always on getting to the next action sequence as quickly as possible, and, like Call of Duty, the lulls between combat are quickly forgotten.

Whether you call it Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, or Act of Valor, the end result is the same: audiences are treated to thrilling, intense action sequences that will keep them on the edge of their seats throughout.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience the intensity of antiterrorist combat without ever strapping on a Kevlar vest, then this is as close as you’re going to get in a movie theatre.

Verified by the Navy SEALs and chock full of intense gun warfare, Act of Valor proceeds just as you would expect, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

3.5 stars out of 5

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