Setting the scene– More and more these days in Hollywood, we are starting to see directors take an idea and infuse a whole lot of realistic values into it. Sometimes more and sometimes less, but either way it’s a unique way of telling a story that otherwise might not have been as raw or exciting. It doesn’t always work, but the concept is great if there’s a pretty decent pallet to start with. So, when I saw the trailer for “Act of Valor,” I had a feeling this could be one of those cases, just never thought I would be blown away in the manner that I was after sitting down to experience it.
What’s it about? It’s hard to exactly know where the stories came from that makeup this film, but mostly, it follows a team of Navy SEALs on a few token missions. And we’re not just talking about ‘any’ mission, as ‘any’ mission by a SEAL is one that is essentially “off the books.” You know, missions to pull back a vital U.S. CIA agent (Rosalyn Sanchez) who was kidnapped or to take down a drug extremist(Alex Veadov), who we later find out is connected to a ruthless killer in Abdul Shabal (Jason Cottle). So, as we watch these SEALs travel the world to put out indirect fires set by Shabal, you start to realize this might be more real than first realized. Especially when a side-plot to bomb a few major U.S. cities gets dropped in throwing this story into a tailspin. It was then you saw the true meaning of what it meant to be a U.S. Navy SEAL and understand just how few are able to get into the program, much less move into a Special Warfare group like the one featured here.Who was in it? Because a U.S. Navy SEAL is not your ordinary soldier, there are very few actors that could be cast to play one in a film like this. Throw in the notion that this entire concept was only meant to be a tool used by the Navy to recruit and you start to understand why no one prominent was cast to be in this film. In fact, by now most people have heard where the characters in “Act of Valor” are reportedly played by on duty members of active SEAL teams. Judging by what I saw, it’s hard to argue that fact, as you can see it in how they moved, reloaded their ‘real’ weapons with ‘real’ ammunition and even how they sat on the plane right before jumping out in tandem fashion. Even the professionalism demonstrated can’t be faked, but where that aspect was nearly flawless, some of the non-combat scenes when these same SEALS were conversing was awkward at best. Maybe that was the poor dialogue within the script or maybe that was just the lack of experience in front of the cameras, but either way it was kind of hard to watch them interact with each other between the missions. That’s a shame, because outside of those more what I would call ‘intimate moments,’ this film moved at a furious pace.A realistic viewpoint– Clearly when directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh came together on this film, one thing was certain, it would look and feel as real as it gets. Because it only took a few minutes into that first mission that you realize, this is not your ordinary war depiction. In fact, for the first time in maybe the history of this genre, this film displays that unspoken technical mastery of modern war, but without glorifying the carnage so many directors fall victim to. Sure, plenty of films have come close to this; maybe too close, but for any fan of this genre, I doubt it gets more technically accurate than what directors McCoy and Waugh, also known as ‘The Bandito Brothers,’ did here. And trust me, that’s really all you need to be concerned with in watching “Act of Valor,” as nothing else matters. Not the poor dialogue or lack of star power; the intense action and camera angles are what moves this picture from one scene to the next. Sure, these missions are only based on “true events,” but that doesn’t change the reality of it, which was full of grit and emotion. That’s to the credit of ‘The Bandito Brothers,’ who’s own history of shooting videos for the Navy helped lead them to make this once training video into a full out motion picture. I’m just glad they decided to stick to only casting real SEALS, as I doubt it would have felt the way it did had Bruce Willis or Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson been cast like they were in the upcoming “G.I.J.O.E.” sequel.Bottom Line– I read somewhere that “Act of Valor” featured actual submarines and helicopters, and not a single digital object was created in the making of the film. Nearly everything you saw was real and absolutely practical. No green screens or CGI here, which to me speaks volumes as to what this entire project was about at its core.B+For more reviews from Marcus, click here