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Review: Act of Valor
March 29, 2012
It is often very difficult to make a war film well, and when I say well, I mean accurately. There are many different factors to take into account when making such a film, including the impact harrowing scenes of war and battle will have on the audience. Therefore, the film Act of Valor, which was released in the UK on the 23rd March, needed to do this in a sensitive yet fair way and fortunately it managed to do so. Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh have produced not just any war film but have instead chosen to portray the very real and very current threat of terrorism.
Always a contentious subject matter because of the prominent place terrorism holds in contemporary society, Act of Valor gives a fair and at many points, disturbing insight into the fight against terror and the effect this has on the SEALs as well as the families they leave at home. Shot in such a way that the actions scenes are as chaotic and unpredictable as you would expect a real war zone to be, it was always the director’s intentions to be as honest as possible when producing this film. They were careful to produce not only these scenes as sincerely as possible but also to highlight the bond between the SEALs, as McCoy states: “…we’ve never seen anything like the brotherhood of the SEALs team, that was almost we thought only existed in mythology”. It was this kind of dedication that saw the two ex-stuntmen turned directors spending a year before hand researching the project.
You’ve probably heard this before, with lots of films claiming to accurately portray specific events, however it really doesn’t get more real than using active duty US Navy SEALs to play the characters. Arguably as a result of this, the acting is under par because of the lack of professional actors but the film doesn’t suffer in any way; it is very clearly not about the acting, it is about representing the war on terror. Portraying scenes based on real life missions, this kind of authenticity cannot be faked and is ultimately necessary to produce a film like this. The SEALs played a huge part in the production of the film, actually planning the ops plan for every mission portrayed in the film, meaning the directors would actually fit the cameras around them. In keeping with the authenticity of the film, it included no CGI and relied heavily on live fire that added to the overall documentary style finish.
I have been excited about the film Act of Valor for months after first seeing the trailer and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed by the final product. The directors effectively strike an emotional balance in the film between the representation of the SEALS carrying out their missions as well as the turmoil they are placed under when they have to say goodbye to their loved ones. This is arguably the first film to be produced that effectively provides this kind of raw emotion. Demonstrating harrowing scenes of suicide bombings, you will undoubtedly remember long after you leave the cinema. The film is effective in placing the audience in the boots of a Navy SEAL as they plan and execute a mission to save a kidnapped CIA operative and eventually find themselves embroiled in a world-wide manhunt to stop a terrorist threat against the US.
Overall, McCoy and Waugh have been successful in producing a faithful piece of work that fulfils their original intentions of accurately reflecting US Navy SEALs in their natural environment. The action is enough to satisfy even the most ardent adrenaline junkies however the directors never exploit their subject matter. Instead what you are left with is a compelling and striking representation of real life heroism as the title suggests.