"This thing is way bigger than we thought it was. They're gonna hit us at home."
Tackling the male 18-24 demographic like no other film before it, ACT OF VALOR has blood, bombs, and dudes in uniform. There are gun shots, explosions, conflicts aplenty. No complaints about the energy level. The acting though is about as limp as one of the fallen corpses, their brains splattered by countless headshots.
VALOR follows the false pursuits of actual U.S Navy SEALs. Lieutenant Roarke and Chief Dave lead the team, though these monikers are forged since all members are still on active duty. Dave voices over throughout, explaining various Navy mantras and their code of honour. He preaches loyalty and teamwork. Then he and his team jump out of a plane. Because nothing brings people together more than plummeting towards Earth at breakneck speeds.
Across the globe in the Philippines, an ice cream truck pulls into an international school. A horde of children rush the vehicle, trying to be the first to purchase a treat. Happiness quickly turns to horror as the truck explodes, instantly incinerating students and the U.S. ambassador waiting for his child. A man briskly walks away from the carnage, a scarred face partially hidden by a mask. He's a terrorist, and the main antagonist. We know this because, well, he has a scar. Guys with scars are always bad.
Thus begins the mission: America's finest versus an accented enemy. I've mentioned the action, and it is indeed impressive and immersive. The SEAL team have stormed an insurgent camp, in hopes of rescuing a captured CIA operative (Rosalyn Sánchez). They infiltrate and salvage, but on the way out a firefight ensues. The heroes flee in a seized pickup before backup arrives in the form of two boats laden with gatling guns. The empty shells rain down like fallen tears. The plot later evolves into the terrorists attempting to smuggle bomb-strapped loyalists into the U.S. employing tunnels used by Mexican drug cartels.
The original plan for the film was as a recruitment video. Presumably, impressionable young men and women would see their nation mates in action and spring to join them in the fray. After securing many hours and footage and spending so much time with their subjects, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh decided to change their focus into a full-length feature.
As mentioned above, the plot becomes quite intricate. McCoy and Waugh found that actors couldn't carry the weight the story required, necessitating the need for real operatives to take center stage. What they gained in flawless maneuvers, was completely lost whenever any of the SEALs opened their mouth to spurt dialogue. They actually do fine when they speak in their own language, 'being attacked by QRF's, before escaping on SWCC's,' and so on. It's when the conversations get informal that the film goes off track, and becomes frankly, unbearable. (The most egregious culprit was the bearded "Chief" who resembled a slightly skinnier, hairier Jeff Daniels. You know, if Daniels had not acted, and instead became a trained killer.)
At certain points, the camera shifts to the first person. We hear the labored breathing and the footsteps as if they're our own. These play like a video game, a la Medal of Honor. I've never been the biggest fan of these types of games. While they can be enjoyable, they're equally as forgettable. (Being Canadian, this could just be my supreme pacifism leaking through.) The intimacy of it all will draw some viewers in--something the creators are surely banking on. For some, being up close and personal gets their blood boiling, ready to enlist and get fully equipped. Always looking for the next batch of eager recruits.