A blog about movies and filmmaking.

ACT OF VALOR | Damn Few

In action on February 14, 2012 at 6:21 am

There are two things that I don’t like or pay much attention to in this world. One is video games (other than Angry Birds and Words With Friends), and the other is jingoistic fervor. So, despite the fact that the new movie, ACT OF VALOR, seemed like it might be brimming with the opportunity for both; I was really excited to see it. Perhaps it was because I bought into the “hook” of the movie from the opening moments of the trailer. REAL LIFE, ACTIVE DUTY NAVY SEALS?! In a fictional movie that would allow them to show their skills? Sold.

It might be that I’m a sucker for action and military motifs in movies. (That’s a big part in why I can tolerate most of Michael Bay’s movies – he can shoot the military well.) But, once the excitement wore off, that’s when I realized that this could very well by a two-hour commercial for the Navy and for “America”.

I’m happy to say that it at least didn’t fall into the trap of “America is better than everyone else, and we have super Navy SEALs that can kick your butts”. Though, it pretty much is a video game where you don’t get to control who gets shot.

I enjoyed Act of Valor a good bit. What it turned out to be was a Michael Bay movie, without all the shine and inane plots his movies usually need to have wedged in there. There’s a great callout at the beginning before our group of warriors head out on their mission, that they’re not to go into the field with any issues back home. You got to have your head in the game, and if it’s not either you or one of your team is going to get killed. What that also did was assure us (the audience) that there aren’t going to be any extraneous plot points that these guys have to discuss, while shooting faceless enemies.

Okay, there’s one, but it works pretty well, and earns a couple of good laughs from its repetition.

I used the word “warriors” above, because that’s really what this movie preaches. It’s about the warrior’s life – whether it be the U.S. Navy; Islamic jihadists; or Native Americans long ago (there’s a poem by Tecumseh that pops up a couple times…hence the mention) – these are guys who walk into danger, ready to give their lives. It’s not taking sides. In-fact, because the villains in the movie are played by “real actors”, I’d say that the villains give us more to emotionally latch on to, and feel empathy towards, than the SEALs we spend most of our time with. Not much though.

This isn’t a movie about being emotionally attached. So much so, that the first scene has an ice cream truck into a school and then blows up, taking a large group of children with it. This movie will not be for the faint of heart. There’s dozens of nameless enemies that get shot, and people that get blown up (one moment in particular that is just gruesome!). Which leads to the only real mark against some of its action sequences, the digital blood. It’s a hard call nowadays when digital is so easy, and practical can look so strange. But, there’s still something that just seems off with digital hits.

Otherwise, the action is intense and despite it being touted as “the real actions” these guys would take, has minor flourishes that can only be provided by Hollywood. Overall though, it didn’t surpass my expectations but it didn’t really underwhelm either. I feel like part of it is due to the way the movie is shot – which pretty much follows the protocol for military/action fare – so it doesn’t really break any new boundaries. With either the stylized shots with lens flares cutting through silhouettes to the very “1st person shooter” perspectives of seeing the action from the angle of the weapon. There are moments I really bought, that showed what these guys could do that actors portraying these maneuvers just wouldn’t convey. Small things like coming out of the water with the barrel of your weapon just grazing the surface; or sounding off. And there’s one moment, with a submarine just barely under the ocean that I kind of fell in love with. It’s small and only there for a moment, but those are the details that I really liked about this movie.

Check it out.

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