Any movie made with the cooperation of the US army and six real-life Navy SEALS is bound to have a certain moral slant to it. But “Act of Valor” completely throws nuance out the window in favour of good and evil stereotypes unseen since John Wayne waved the flag on the big screen.
Inspired by true events, the real life Navy SEALS of Bandito Platoon rescue a kidnapped CIA agent and uncover a terrorist plot to kill thousands of Americans in coordinated attacks.
The chasm between the good and bad guys is wide and deep, almost as gaping as the ideological stance of the main players. The heroes are good-looking warriors who hold “honour, justice, freedom and family” as sacred. One of the good characters, a kidnapped CIA agent, even appears to have stigmata at one point. The bad guys, on the other hand, are bug-eyed
This movie isn’t subtle. It’s an advertisement for the war on terror that could be mistaken for a 1940s vintage propaganda film, were it not for the colour film and inclusion of suicide bombers.
As propaganda films go, this is a pretty good one. It’s clear the Navy SEALS didn’t go to drama school. But aside from some stilted scenes of camaraderie and family life, they deliver where it counts on the battlefield. The action scenes work because of the ease of execution these men bring to the movie. These well-trained soldiers portray something that can’t be taught in drama class — the immediacy of battle. Those scenes crackle with excitement and tension and are worth the price admission.
The rest of the movie doesn’t have the same excitement and is too heavy-handed — these guys are so tough one actually survives a rocket blast to the chest. Even so, “Act of Valor” does have a visceral authenticity often missing from war films.