“Act of Valor” movie review

There is so much I wish to say in regards to this film that I’m struggling with what to put down. First, I’ll give you some perspective: I spent 8 years in the Marine Corps. I love my country in a way that only those who have signed up to put their lives on the line will truly understand. I know what it means to volunteer for a lifestyle where you answer when the call comes, even if that means leaving loved ones and family behind. I was ecstatic when my brother-in-law, an intel officer in the Marines, made it back home safely this past weekend after a year in Afghanistan. Words can’t express the joy I felt in his safe return.

Now I’ll get to the film…

“Act of Valor” takes us into the lives of the Navy SEALs. Stepping outside the lines of traditional film making, actual active duty SEALs were cast instead of actors. As discussed in numerous interviews with the producers and directors, the goal was to make the film as authentic as possible. Nothing like bringing in the best of the best to show how SEALs operate. Sadly, the same can’t be said of the script. Even seasoned actors would have been hard pressed to carry the movie’s stilted dialogue. And these aren’t actors…they’re highly trained, lethal warriors. Frankly speaking, they are paid to kill, not act. If the film could have been comprised strictly of action scenes, it would have been tremendous. These men operate with a surgeon’s precision, honed by years of training. The first jungle extraction scene literally drew some shouts in the theatre when the gun boats opened up. I’ll admit, I smiled. There’s also a scene later in the movie that every wannabe suicide bomber hell-bent on his 70 virgins should watch concerning the dangers of sympathetic detonation (sorry, my background as an ammo tech still pops up at times). It’s too bad the writers couldn’t have given us something more for the antagonists than such a cliche band of big-bearded jihadists, but after the first couple rounds of dialogue, I figured it was about par for the course. Don’t go into this film expecting some great cinematic event; instead, see it as a 1.5 hr recruitment film shot on a multi-million dollar budget. Does it convey the message of these heroes in a compelling way? Yes. Should it have been better? Most definitely. These men are the legends of our day. The true heroes. As the film ended, the words of Tecumseh offered a fitting tribute to these warriors:

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”