Film Review : Act of Valor
● By Justin Buettner
A group of special unit Navy Seals are sent in to rescue an abducted CIA officer, but what they uncover during the operation sets off an international chase for a group of terrorists that seek to set off 16 bombs inside the United States. The elite team faces it’s enemy on several fronts to prevent a disaster that will dwarf 9/11, but will they be in time?
The decision to use real active duty Navy Seals was bold and put to good use during the action scenes. However outside the comfort zone of the combat scenes, this group of Navy Seals are terrible actors and it really hurts the drama of the story. The main Navy Seal members that the movie follows are so devoid of personality and charisma that when major events unfold for these men it lacks the emotional impact that should be there. Just the same, there is something refreshing seeing a film that does portray the US armed forces in a positive light and as heroes.
The action scenes are where Act of Valor really shines. The active duty Seals really give an authenticity to these scenes whether it is a rescue mission or even an interrogation. The technical manner of which these scenes are handled is much different than the normal action scene from your average Hollywood film which makes it far more interesting to watch.
The cinematography of the movie is truly impressive. Act of Valor was shot with a prosumer Canon 5D camera instead of the traditional high end film or digital camera major Hollywood productions generally use. Shane Hurlbut really knew how to get the most out of the Canon camera. Every shot has a beauty to it, and the night shoots has a clarity and fidelity to it that most movies aren’t able to achieve. This is definitely award worthy work.
Despite the fantastic cinematography of the movie I think young directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh really missed an opportunity to make this movie stronger. If they had decided to shoot this movie in the first person style that has been so popularly employed recently by movies like Paranormal Activity, Chronicle, and Project X I think Act of Valor would have been a much better movie. First person style would have masked the acting performances of the active duty Seals, it would have given an even greater sense of realism to the actions scenes, and I think it would have forced the filmmakers to be more creative in telling the story.
One of my biggest problems with Act of Valor outside the bad acting is the way the story was delivered. We were shown too much of the villains, so I felt the audience knew too much too early and it drained too much tension from the film. If the movie were shot first person the filmmakers would have been forced to focus on how the armed services pieced together the puzzle of finding the terrorists.
In the end Act of Valor will meet the needs of its target audience, action fans. The battle scenes are top notch. I do think people with family members in the armed forces will appreciate this movie in a way that civilian people can’t. There are scenes that deal with military family life, and although the acting is not strong, I think the point of these scenes will resonate with wives and children of soldiers in active duty. Act of Valor’s entertaining action scenes and gorgeous cinematography outweigh the major deficits in acting and storytelling, especially for fans of action films and military families.
Films like Act of Valor : Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker, and Jarhead
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.