Reel Reviews: Film trades accuracy for integrity

Taylor and Howe review Navy Seal film, Act of Valor.

  • Mar. 18, 2012 9:00 a.m.
A Navy Seal is engaged in a personnel recovery mission in Act of Valor.

A Navy Seal is engaged in a personnel recovery mission in Act of Valor.

Act of Valor is a bit of a pickle. If you walked into the theatre by accident, knowing nothing of this film about Navy Seals, you would still suss out the things we’re about to tell you.

There’s no need for a spoiler alert here. The film is more enjoyable if you just forgive it in advance.

Act of Valor is a 110-minute recruitment commercial. Commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 2008 to help bolster numbers, the winning pitch became the film we saw today.

Shot with Canon 35mm cameras, which looks great, and with unprecedented access to all manner of naval technology, the filmmakers kept costs low. (The film profited twice what it cost in two days.)

They also used real Navy Seals and allowed them to build the story by planning responses to their scripted problems of terrorist ilk. It’s a terrific concept, but does it pay off? Can Seals act? Are we joining the Navy?

We say, “See it, unless you end up joining the military, then we never said anything.”

TAYLOR: The Seals are great at being… Sealy. They are barely passable as actors, by which I mean, when they’re talking about their wives and what not, it was really forced. They should have stuck to their guns.

HOWE: You could really tell the difference between the actors and the Seals. The bad guy was good, you could tell he was an actor. What did they do, find the best looking Seals to act? Having said that, they can act better than I could be a soldier.

TAYLOR: I did get sucked into the combat a bit. I do enjoy films about war and battle. This film felt realistic, or at least, what I imagine realistic would look like. Until the Seals had to emote, then I was reminded what I was watching and became conflicted.

HOWE: Yeah, I know what you mean. I enjoyed the opening half hour when they’re doing their stealthy Seal business. Then it seemed to be one giant ad to join the U.S. Navy, just to show how great a career is with them: barbecues, surfing and sometimes blowing things up.

TAYLOR: The audience could tell that this band of brothers cared for each other, but I’m not sure that the audience cared about them. This film felt specifically catered to people who know what “first person shooter” means. Again, I feel a little queasy…

HOWE: Overall, I feel the U.S. Navy succeeds with this film. Anyone thinking of joining up or just enjoys war films should go see Act of Valor, as it delves deeper with its tactical knowledge of modern warfare and is not just someone running around shooting at anything that moves. OK, they do that too, but as a last resort.

TAYLOR: (singing earnestly) “Freedom isn’t free! It costs folks like you and me. And if you don’t chip in your buck-o-five, who will?”

–– Taylor gives Act of Valor 2 spelling lessons out of 5.

–– Howe gives it 2 rocket launchers out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Vernon’s Galaxy Cinemas.

Movie enthusiasts Brian Taylor and Peter Howe review films twice weekly for The Morning Star.