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Act of Valor – Sing your death song

Act of Valor - Theater Review
Release Date: 2/24/2012 - MPAA Rating: R
Clacker Rating: 5 Clacks

Unless you've walked in the boots of a Navy SEAL or other service member who's served 'downrange,' you've never seen action as realistic as 'Act of Valor.'

Considering that the main thrust of the marketing campaign for Relativity Media’s Act of Valor has centered on the word ‘authenticity,’ it is pretty tough to start a review off parroting what the ad men are saying. But, as I sat in the darkened theatre after the film wrapped, the only thought in my mind was just how rare a detailed sneak peak at what modern warfare is. Act of Valor is a unique concept, something we’ve never seen before. If fans of the genre are lucky, we might just get to see more of it in the future.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already heard the concept: the film stars active duty Navy SEALs in stories and scenarios reimagined from the organization’s operational memory. Unlike your average film review, I can’t sit here and talk to you about each of the actors and what they’ve been in before. First, these guys haven’t been in anything before and, more importantly, we don’t know they are (their anonymity is something I hope they’re able to maintain after the film’s release). The Navy hasn’t commented, either on the identity of the sailors, or why they allowed the project to move forward in the first place. If the film does well enough, however, there are hints that the military might allow more projects like Act of Valor.

Hollywood did provide some of the onscreen talent, however. Roselyn Sanchez (Without a Trace) and Nestor Serrano (The Day After Tomorrow) are among several of the recognizable faces, but, in the end, this movie is all about the SEALs. Don’t fool yourself, these men are experts in the ways of warfare; they probably didn’t spend a lot of time in acting classes as they were coming up. I’ve heard criticism of the acting, but I think that’s too general of a complaint. The only thing that stood out to me was some of the dialogue delivery, and the plot followed a fairly obvious straight line. I think, all things considered, that the tradeoffs were well worth those few.

The action in the film is incredible. There are two major set pieces, and both deliver on the promise of the film’s concept. The first, which has featured prominently in the trailers, is a rescue mission in a Central American jungle. The extraction involves SWCC boats and their crews, the subject of a video filmed by Bandito Production’s Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, which lead to their access to create Act of Valor.

Thematically, though, hyper-realistic action wasn’t the only thing the audience experienced. The sacrifices that the men featured in the film make are not the only ones on display. Behind every soldier, sailor, airman and marine headed into harm’s way is a family who has to stay behind. There was a scene early on that focuses on a wife of a SEAL as she says goodbye that is as heartbreaking as the action sequences are amazing. Something that really impacted me was a poem by Tecumseh that was referenced several times. They are, among other things, words left by a character’s father instructing his son how to live, “… live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.” These families in this movie, and those of service members across the country, live in a much different world than the rest of us.

If Act of Valor was an experiment, the outcome was pretty successful. The action and intricate detail of the military’s special operations were better than anything we’ve seen on screen in a long time. The few shortcomings shouldn’t be ignored, but they certainly aren’t what people will be talking about as the end credits roll.


Photo Credit: Relativity Media, LLC

One Response to “Act of Valor – Sing your death song”

February 25, 2012 at 2:17 AM

The poem is not by Chief Tecumseh, it is actually more commonly attributed to Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725

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