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Review

‘Act of Valor’ unlike any other movie experience

Michael Brun

March 2, 2012

I’m finding it hard to fit “Act of Valor” into a specific genre. It is certainly a war movie, although a rare breed that defends military action as honorable and necessary. It also features a number of action movie tropes, but without the flashy bravado and invincible hero. And its depiction of military hardware borders on documentary.

Simply put, “Act of Valor” is a unique experience.

The movie stars a team of Navy SEALs—played by real, active-duty team Members—with orders to stop a terrorist plot against the U.S. Their mission sends them hunting bad guys across the globe, from militias in Somalia to Mexican drug cartels.

The advertisements for the movie focus heavily on the use of actual Navy SEALs as stars. The most prominently featured are Chief Dave and Lt. Cmdr. Rorke, whose friendship provides the movie’s emotional core. Their acting chops are distractingly limited, but the sense of camaraderie they convey is convincing enough to redeem their performances.

The standout performance comes from the SEAL referred to as Senior Chief. In one scene, he interrogates a drug trafficker played by experienced actor Alex Veadov. The Chief dominates the screen, overshadowing his professional counterpart in every way. The dialogue and editing is spot-on, creating the movie’s most riveting and memorable scene. It is remarkable that the most intense part of a movie starring real soldiers is just two men conversing across a table.

Of course the movie features a heavy dosage of action sequences as well, and the attention to detail was clearly a priority for the producers. From equipment to tactics, the action plays out with the technicality and realism of a Tom Clancy thriller. The focus on weaponry borders on fetishism, featuring shots like a minigun spewing bullets in slow motion.

Rookie directors Mike Mc- Coy and Scott Waugh, deliver competent action scenes, except for an over reliance on point-of-view shots. Like a first-person shooter video game, the action frequently cuts to a shot looking down the barrel of a SEAL’s rifle as he takes aim to bring down targets. Perhaps it will appeal to fans of military video games, but I found the effect quickly becoming stale.

Although “Act of Valor” is structured like an action movie, it lacks the lightheartedness of movies like “The Expendables” or “Rambo.” For instance, early in the movie the SEALs find themselves being chased by a truck full of hostiles. A direct hit from a missile sends the truck flipping through the air as a fiery mess.

In a normal action movie, this would have been followed up with a catchphrase or tension-breaking shout, but not so in “Act of Valor.” Instead, the SEALs just continue with their mission unfazed.

“Act of Valor” is primarily a tribute to the men and women of the armed forces. While not as polished as “Black Hawk Down” or emotional as “Saving Private Ryan,” its heart is in the right place. Those who have served in the military, or know someone who has, will likely choke up at the end.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.