Know what the main problem with wars is?
They're not cinematic enough. Maybe people would enjoy them more if they just looked better. Would war be so "horrible" if parts were shot in gorgeous slo-mo with the explosions and shouts mixed back to be tastefully impressionistic?
I doubt it. Sounds like people would be signing up for it in droves. The obvious solution is to replaced our trained soldiers with Hollywood professionals.
That makes sense, right? To replace the people who know what they're doing with people who have no experience whatsoever? Oh wait. It would result in a massacre, both figuratively and literally. Yet, something very much like this appears to have been the plan behind the new thriller Act of Valor.
After CIA agent Roselyn Sanchez is kidnapped by a drug lord, a Navy SEAL team infiltrates Costa Rica to get her back out.
But that's just the start. The team soon discovers a terrorist plot against America. If they don't root out the cell, thousands of Americans could die.
Sound a little generic? I'll answer that one for you. Yes, it does sound generic. Because it is. Yet also very, very not.
You see, Act of Valor is a strange movie. In some ways, it's a straightforward covert ops thriller about good guys hunting down the bad guys before the bad guys can do their bad things. In other ways, it's a jingoistic piece of recruitment propaganda starring real-life Navy SEALs and including first-person shots explicitly meant to resemble games like Call of Duty in order to further appeal to young men. That part's probably just for the artistic value, though. Video game adaptations always clean up at the Oscars.
The thing is, while SEALs make for very good terrorist-hunters, it turns out being able to pilot a mini-sub doesn't necessarily translate to the ability to act. I'm shocked, too. The SEALs program has long been the first step toward the red carpet. Yet Act of Valor may as well be titled Act. Seriously, Please Start Acting Already, the Audience is Dying Here.
There are some moments of high-quality acting, but these only help contrast how amateur the rest of it is. Also, the two main terrorists are far and away the best actors and characters here, making for a somewhat confusing viewing experience. Man, I hope these soldiers catch those terrorists! Those charismatic, oddly compelling terrorists. Who have actual, if monstrous, human wants. Meanwhile, I can barely tell the two main SEALs apart.
On the upside, the Navy's involvement does lend Act of Valor some visceral action scenes. Let me say this. On the list of things I'd like to be shot with, a boat-mounted minigun is very near the last. I'm not sure what the first would be. A pudding gun, probably. Also, the resources on display here are kind of hilarious. At one point, the strike team parachutes into the ocean, deploys a tiny boat, climbs aboard a submarine and then departs the sub in a much tinier sub. Elsewhere, they spy on drug runners with a paper plane! Apparently they can just enter whatever country they want whenever they want, too. I guess that's what happens when you have fleets of carriers, submarines and helicopters clustered around the globe. I need to get me a fleet. I haven't had a vacation in forever.
Anyway, this is just window dressing on an empty shop. The ostensible heroes are stiffer than G.I. Joes, and the focus vacillates between a typical action flick and a commercial for the might and right of the U.S. Navy.
As far as propaganda goes, Act of Valor's not all that obnoxious. But it's sure not entertaining, either.