By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
The valor we knew would be there in abundance. It was the acting we were worried about.
But Act of Valor — a war-on-terror action thriller that commissions, captures, and conveys the skills, dedication, and life-risking bravery of the Navy SEALS — turns out to be impressive and inspiring on the bravery front while holding its own on the thespian end.
Act of Valor is a tribute by stuntmen-turned directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh to the real-life-heroic Navy Seals (SEAL standing for “Sea, Air, and Land”) who routinely put their lives on the line and their families on hold while carrying out dangerous, clandestine assignments like the fictional anti-terrorism mission depicted here.
What’s unique about the film is that it stars eight real Navy Seals — along with a handful of professional actors — and casts these real, active-duty Seals instead of real, active-duty actors.
(While the real Seals are playing dramatized versions of themselves, for security reasons they cannot be identified by name.)
This blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking is unprecedented. And surprisingly effective.
The narrative is an inspired-by-true-events story of contemporary global anti-terrorism involving these elite, highly-trained modern warriors, as a Seal squad undergoes a covert operation to rescue a CIA operative, played by Roselyn Sanchez, who has been kidnapped and whisked away to the Philippines by an international drug dealer, played by Alex Veadov.
During the rescue, the Seals discover a deadly terrorist plot against the United States, so a team of Seals is assigned to undertake a worldwide manhunt to thwart a coordinated attack that represents a life-or-death threat to thousands of American citizens.
Thus are the men of Bandito Platoon sent across the globe to track the terrorist ring and engage in a furious firefight on the US-Mexico border.
Honoring bravery and sacrifice as it does, this shaky-cam-shot actioner will certainly enhance the already sparkling reputation of the Seals, but it also deserves respect as an action flick.
No, none of the principals will be winning an acting award anytime soon. But they all get the job done. And we certainly can’t say that about every film that comes along featuring professional performers, can we?
And, yes, we do notice that the narrative doesn’t progress smoothly and that some of the dialogue is on the selfconscious side.
But it’s in the combat sequences that the film really shines. The scenes in which the Seals discharge firearms are superbly staged and choreographed.
Why they had to use live ammunition, as has been reported, is a curious mystery. But for whatever reason, the scenes involving military conflict -– based on five actual missions -– register with an unusually high degree of seeming authenticity.
Directors McCoy and Waugh know their limitations and wisely play to their strengths. That’s also true of the script by Kurt Johnstad, who mostly takes us directly from one action set piece to another.
But those sequences, smartly shot and edited and energetically and authoritatively rendered, not only generate considerable suspense but come to redefine the concept of “teamwork.” The film may be one-dimensional, but that one dimension is admirably realized.
Ultimately, Act of Valor also plays like a propagandistic, feature-length recruitment video. And all indications are that it’s been successful in that regard. But even though it’s not exactly a surprise to discover that it was the US Navy that initially approached the moviemakers, rather than the usual other-way-around (yep, this project was born not in Hollywood, but in the Pentagon), the credibility if not the subtlety of the finished product wins the battle and the war.
Which is why we’ll rescue 2½ stars out of 4. Act of Valor seals the deal by dealing the Seals.