Act of Valor: Action War Movie Starring Eight Real Navy SEALS

On paper, this actioner has some unique elements that should have amounted to something more entertaining and meaningful.  Two stuntmen, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, have co-directed an action-war movie starring eight real Navy SEALs.

The hype surrounding the film, naturally enough, is that this one is much more realistic than all the other action and war movies out there.

“Act of Valor” aims to put audiences “in the boots” of the SEALs, as McCoy and Waugh explain in a brief introduction. Even the bullets, or at least many of them, are “live fire.” (Let’s assume, however, that the numerous terrorists and terrorist abettors killed in this hyper-violent film are just actors)

Will this attempt at verisimilitude actually make “Act of Valor” a more exciting film? Do real bullets in a movie come across more convincing than fake bullets?  The target audience for this flick will decide.

The co-directors’ introduction is a mistake, for otherwise the audience would never know the “realness” factor at work and would just sit through a big, messy actioner.

Without a plot that feels real or characters that feel real, this movie never comes across as any more real than such popcorn fare as“Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol.”

“Act of Valor,” which moves through a cavalcade of international locations for no apparent reason, is disjointed.  It also becomes overwhelmingly dull long before it reaches a couple of tediously staged climactic shootouts in Mexico and an utterly depressing coda.

What it comes down to is just a series of elaborate SEALs operations—with editing by Siobhan Prior, Michael Tronick, and Waugh that tries to put some order and sense into a barely comprehensible narrative. But, alas, the set pieces are strung together with a weak storyline that has the SEALs on the trail of a band of suicide bombers headed toward major US metropolises.

Kurt Johnstad’s screenplay, which leans heavily on hilariously ponderous voiceover narration from one of the SEALs, is misshapen–a blob of a script. The faux poetic narration includes lines, such as “Being dangerous was sacred” and “War is a country of will,” plus reflections on “the code,” whatever that is, that binds these macho men together. There are too many throwaway lines like “This could be big trouble in little China!”

Johnstad, one of the writers on “300,”  also clutters his screenplay with too much technical talk in the field that is never explained. Audiences will feel that they are practically watching a foreign movie without subtitles or dubbing. Some attempts at humor are pedestrian.

Then there is the acting. The actor SEALs, who go uncredited, seem hypnotized or stoned. Supposedly, the SEALs cannot reveal their names for security reasons—but is it not a security problem, then, to put their faces out there in a major picture opening in 2,500 theaters?

There are also misogynist and anti-Muslim shadings throughout, which bring “Act of Valor” further down.

The only redeeming aspect is that, in the end, the filmmakers show the downside of military service—the personal sacrifices that have to be made.

This film, which actually began as a recruitment project, is an advertisement for the US military, with its technical edge over the rest of the world. But prospective enlistees may find themselves thinking twice about their future after seeing what befalls a couple of the key SEALs.



A Relativity Media release.

Directed and produced by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh.

Written by Kurt Johnstad.

Cinematography, Shane Hurlbut.

Editing, Siobhan Prior, Michael Tronick, Scott Waugh.

Original Music, Nathan Furst.

Running time: 101 minutes.