Act of Valor sees a team of Navy SEALs embark on a mission to find and rescue a CIA agent being held captive. That is the plot summed up in under 25 words, but the basic plot is not the real story here, its the soldiers themselves.
Normally, when watching a war film, you will be expecting to see the usual American epic about some American soldiers who overcame overwhelming odds in order to preserve their way of life. This is where Act of Valor differs from the norm.
The main aspect of this film which I most enjoyed was the real life tactics which were used. Instead of seeing some soldier doing a James Bond run, where he runs in front of numerous guns and never seems to get shot, we see real tactics being used. Some of the manoeuvres they manage is actually shocking and the way they can infiltrate an enemy’s position with such stealth is quite frankly a little scary.
The reason the tactics and action scenes in this film appear so authentic and accurate is because the main cast is composed of active duty soldiers. These men have performed these manoeuvres time and time again and when they do it on camera it looks no different to when they do it in real life, except the actor lives.
The only slight drawback to this film, in my opinion, would be the acting of the main cast. I understand that the main cast are soldiers and not actors but that really does become apparent right from the beginning. But as the film progresses so does the action. These soldiers are then portraying their lives on camera and gradually becoming more comfortable to watch, mainly because the acting is minimal for them during the middle and end of the film as they are in combat. But as I said this is the only small negative I would point out in an otherwise positive experience.
The cast and crew were obviously going for the authentic and realistic approach, and my god did they succeed. Not only did they use active duty soldiers to bring realism to the tactics and dialogue but they even used live ammunition for a lot of the gun fights and explosions. You can identify this almost immediately, the gun shots and explosions not only look fantastic but they even sound completely different. I noticed the camera angels also contributed to this effect. They used a lot of first person camera shots, looking through the eyes of the soldier, seeing what they are seeing. I think this worked wonderfully, especially in the night scenes where the soldiers were using night vision goggles.
So overall I really enjoyed this film. The action scenes were fantastic, the tactics were chilling even if the acting was a little off. The last point I would like to address is the use of not only the active duty soldiers, which I have mentioned, but the exclusion of big actors. Using unknown actors was an excellent choice, especially as they were going for the authentic, real approach and from my experience one of the many things which can snap the audience out of the moment and remind them that this is fake is George Clooney or Brad Pitt showing his face on screen with an army hat on. Not cool.
So if you like war films, if you like blood pumping combat then you will love Act of Valor. And for you women reading this thinking, “great, another 90 minute testosterone filled war film” think again. You get to see these soldiers for who they are, not just killers, not just someone doing their job but husbands and fathers, you see how their families cope, you see the real life and thoughts of today’s modern soldier.
Written by Oliver Willis