It almost feels unpatriotic to not be able to give this a five star review. My review will seem almost negative. We’ll start by admitting that I went into this film expecting to dislike it because I thought it would be too realistic in the action scenes.
The action scenes were not ‘too’ realistic. They were mostly realistic but not ‘too’ realistic and not totally realistic. I can’t personally claim to have seen first-hand the effects of the explosive devices and ordinance that they used, but I’ve seen enough real explosions and staged explosions to tell the difference. Act of Valor went Hollywood with many of their explosions. This is good for the viewing audience.
The acting was mostly non-existent. The vast majority of the movie is military action. We get more spoken lines of acting from the bad-guys than the good-guys. The actors playing the bad guys do okay in their roles. They are convincing as bad-guys. The movie seems to use the whole spectrum of bad-guys from religious zealots to drug cartels to arms smugglers.
I found the dialogue from the good-guys, when they weren’t shouting and relaying orders, to be bad, really bad. The lines seemed to be expository. A military briefing where some of the mission requirements only come to light when the briefer ends their spiel and asks any questions? Requirements are always all presented. The questions were clearly just there to keep us from having to listen to one guy drone on and to give the other actors a couple lines.
As a writer, I know we use dialogue as exposition. We have characters talk about the situation just to bring the reader up to speed. This can be done well, where the reader doesn’t even know they are being given information or it can be done poorly where the information hits like a wet sock to the face. The exposition of the movie was wet sock.
There were so many military movie cliches in this film it was almost painful. I cringed when the narration did the string of mini-bios of the unit as they were sitting around the campfire. Honestly, once the action starts, we remember three characters from the military unit. The L.T., the squad leader and the interrogator. We recognize the rest, but their names don’t matter and they don’t stick. Okay, one name sticks, but once it does, that character leaves the story.
The only military movie cliché we missed was the green recruit who had just married his high-school sweetheart before being shipped out. This is probably because there are almost never green recruits in Special Forces units. This is a Navy Seals unit. (monikered for the movie as Seal Team 7) It’s almost impossible to become a Seal while retaining a rank below non-commissioned officer.
The story itself is good and the action is good. I was a bit annoyed when they called a rocket propelled grenade a dud just because it didn’t explode after hitting a target eight feet away. RPGs don’t activate until they are a safe distance from their firing point. Cool effect, but it was poorly explained in the movie.
The final assessment: Act of Valor is a great documentary on Modern Navy Seal Warfare seen through the grime covered window of a poorly written story.