“Act of Valor” has already doubled its production budget since opening on Feb. 24, grossing $24.7 million to secure the top-spot at the box office over the weekend. As fitting as the title is to the film, it also describes the risk taken by directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh to cast active duty Navy SEALs to star in one of Hollywood’s latest thrillers.
The film begins with a team of SEALs embarking on a mission to rescue captured CIA agent, Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez), after her cover has been revealed. As the SEALs attempt their rescue mission, they learn of a deeper plot by a terrorist organization, led by Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle), to launch a massive attack on U.S. soil.
The SEALs move across the globe in search of Shabal until their search lands them in Mexico, where they must face off with Shabal’s counterparts in the Mexican cartel. The SEALs find themselves outmanned and outgunned, and must use their superior training and teamwork if they are to come out on top and prevent the terrorist attack on their home soil.
The film offers viewers a unique perspective of the inner workings of the Navy SEALs, and the opportunity to watch real-life SEALs do what they do best in performing high-stakes missions with no room for error. The camera work is unique in that it occasionally switches to a first-person view, and might have gamers reaching for the trigger button.
The decision to cast real-life SEALs does the film a favor by giving normally unbelievable action scenes some authenticity. But with the perks comes a downfall I was weary of when I first saw the previews- the acting. Of course, by casting SEALs into an unfamiliar acting role, there is room to forgive the poorly delivered dialogue, as monotone and overly rehearsed as it is, and which will have viewers begging for the return of its best feature- the action scenes.
As the SEALs stealthily attack the village of armed guards to save Morales, there are an abundance of moments where it is clear the SEALs contributed more to the film than stagnate characters. The detail of each operation, from beginning to end, no doubt took into consideration the expertise from SEALs who routinely take on similar missions in reality.
We even get to see the SEALs in their signature moment- emerging from the swampy waters to stealthily advance on the enemy. This time though, there is just something different about it. It’s the difference between acting and a day of actual training. The SEALs are the stunt devils. The film even makes use of live ammunition and explosions, climactic as two Navy boats unload thousands of rounds at the enemy from a bird’s eye-view.
Everything about this film has a genuine feeling to it, even the fact Navy SEALs are not as good at delivering lines as they are at being one of the most highly-functional military units around. Don’t be too harsh when the lead characters (whose actual identities have been left anonymous) seem to read off a teleprompter. Immerse yourself in the action, which as the SEAL name stands for, takes place on sea, land, and air, and does not disappoint.