Early 2012 saw the release of Act of Valor, a film involving a team of US Navy Seals sent on a variety of missions to rescue captured allies, eliminate enemies of the USA and generally just be Navy Seals. Act of Valor’s unique selling point is that it stars real Navy Seals as opposed to actors and highlights the real tactics used by them when in the field. It is truly a novel approach to the tired and clichÃ©d war film genre.
Act of Valor begins with Chief Petty Officer Dave writing a letter to the son of a friend explaining about his life and the ideas of heroism and bravery. In Costa Rica two CIA agents are attacked, one is killed and the other kidnapped and an elite unit of US Navy Seals are dispatched on a rescue mission that will lead them to a Chechen terrorist.
Dave’s voiceover continues throughout narrating the action to avoid the need for the ˜actors’ actually conveying anything other than love for their country. Although quite why the filmmakers felt the need to forgo what every other successful and well-crafted film has done since the birth of cinema and remove actors is beyond me. Obviously used as a unique selling point, the Navy Seals do their level best at portraying themselves, but as with the majority of untrained performers they can’t help but act like they perceive actors to behave rather than just being themselves.
The attempts to create tension and threat for our band of intrepid men usually revolve around terms like ˜terrorist network’ and ˜drug trafficking rings’ but whenever the team get into combat they so heavily outgun their enemies that the result is never in doubt. Imagine a team of Ryback’s from Under Siege pitted against a group of henchmen hired by Hans Gruber in Die Hard and you’re in the right arena of just how one-sided the action is. There are moments where member of the team do not return, but these are disregarded and almost happen by accident.
In one of Act of Valor’s particularly grim scenes sees the team driving away from the enemy in a jeep before crashing into a river. Just as it looks like they may actually be in trouble a gunboat flies into shot and annihilates the local area in a fetishised orgy of bullet fire. What’s worse is the whole assault that leads up to this point is the highlight of this thoroughly depressing excuse of a film.
It’s a shame that Morgan Spurlock filmed his excellent documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold before Act of Valor was released, because he could’ve created an excellent section about the military using film to advertise for new recruits. It’s a sad indictment of modern cinema that something as gratuitously jingoistic and obviously rabble-rousing can make any money at all.
I have no problem with any form of military advertising providing it is correctly marked as such. Act of Valor tries to pass itself off as an action film for entertainment purposes even using shot techniques such as the classic first-person view from popular video games. Yet it is so far from entertaining it’s actual painful to watch. It fails not only on a film-making level where it is dull and unimaginative, but it is also morally repugnant and overtly patriotic bordering on offensive. Act of Valor is one of the worst films of 2012, if not all time.