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'Act of Valor' lacking on the dramatic side

POSTED: March 7, 2012 12:54 p.m.

The film 'Act of Valor' stars real, active-duty Navy SEALs, but Philip says it would have benefited by throwing a few actors into the mix.

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The film "Act of Valor" portrays a group of elite US Navy SEALs who must retrieve a CIA agent who is being held hostage by terrorists. After the rescue mission is completed, however, the Navy SEALs learn that there is a more sinister plot by the terrorists to attack the United States and must embark on different missions to stop the plot.
The cast of Navy SEALs in the film actually still were in active duty when the film was being made. This was one of the movie's big selling points, but unfortunately, it was also one of its biggest flaws. The SEALs aren't actors, and it shows. However, in their defense, they really didn't have much to work with. The storyline is said to be "inspired by actual events," and while I'm sure some of it is, I felt that it was about as generic and bland a film of its type can be. Other than the action sequences, nothing really stood out.
Because the action in this film is what the filmmakers really focused on and is the main reason so many people were excited to see it, I expected the movie to take me to another level of realism and immersion during those moments. At times it did, but at others, I felt like I was playing a "Call of Duty" game.
During the first big action sequence, there is a lot of buildup to the rescue of the hostage: There is the plane jump, the maneuver through the swamp and even the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to scout the area, all in the name of realism. For the most part, I enjoyed this, but it was a bit much and felt forced at times - almost to the point where it felt like I was watching an instruction video of how to approach a terrorist hideout.
Once the fight begins, though, the silent takedowns are pretty sweet. The action is paced well, keeping you alert without making you sick with a bunch of camera shaking.
The story itself is really nothing new. It's your run-of-the-mill anti-terrorist plot, except this time, it just so happens to be acted out by people serving their country as Navy SEALs.
Some may disagree, but I think most people will back the story and argue that it feels authentic only because the people in the film are military servicemen and women. Honestly, actors belong in movies, not the military, and I think "Act of Valor" would have been a little more enjoyable if it included a mix of actors and military personnel. The men in the film needed help portraying that emotional drive that is supposed to make us care about the characters and what they are going through. Instead, what we got was some kick-ass firefights but stale and boring acting when it came to the dramatic side of the flick.
In a nutshell, "Act of Valor" could have been worse, but it could have been a whole lot better as well. For what it is, it's an OK movie with an authentic vibe that kind of hangs in the back of your mind while you're watching it, and that does help carry the film when needed. Fans of the video game franchises "Call of Duty" and "Battlefield" most likely will enjoy this movie, as it seems geared toward that crowd, as will those who feel strongly about the military and the people who serve this country.
However, if you go to see this movie with a Hollywood blockbuster mindset, you are going to be disappointed. On that front, this film falls very short and should be avoided until it comes out on cable TV - which is where I believe it should have made its debut.

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