Act of Valor

Directed By: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh

Starring: Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, and Emilio Rivera

Movies based on true stories have the greatest advantage over fictional films—the plethora of people who can offer expertise on the story being told based on their actual life experiences.  Their consultation in the filmmaking process can often lend a film a certain authenticity.  Look no further than recent films like Moneyball and In the Land of Blood and Honey.  These flicks realistically depict the true stories filmmakers intended to capture.  For their war film Act of Valor though, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh do more than consult with the Navy SEALs who have actually walked the walk.  They cast them as the stars of the film.

While posing as a Mexican doctor, a female CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) is on duty overseas and discovers a link between smuggler Christo (Alex Veadov) and Chechen jihadist Karimov (Dimiter Marinov) that could spell tragedy for the United States.  She reaches out to a colleague (Nestor Serrano) and tells him what she's learned.  Unfortunately, Christo realizes that this Mexican doctor is actually a CIA agent.  He orders his men to kill her colleague and take her captive for interrogation.  At this point, the powers that be bring the Navy SEALs into the picture to recover the CIA agent.  The SEALs must do what they do best to rescue the captured CIA agent and find out what she discovered about Karimov and any terrorist attacks he may be planning against America.

Act of Valor gets quite a few things right in its depiction of the Navy SEALs.  McCoy and Waugh create a world full of brave acts in the face of unrelenting destructive forces.  They give moviegoers a realistic portrait of a SEAL's grueling lifestyle.  They also give us some of the best action sequences so far this year.  Although they've made an action flick that gets quite a few things right, it gets quite a few things wrong too.

I completely understand why McCoy and Waugh chose to use the Navy SEALs in Act of Valor.  Based on their consultation with the SEALs in the pre-production phase of the film, they saw how physically demanding the roles are.  They thought that no actors could take on these challenging roles.  I respectfully disagree with that choice for two reasons.  First, the SEALs are not experienced actors.  Because of this, their performances on camera are best when they're not speaking.  Second, actors have stunt men.  With all the gear that these skilled warriors wear while on duty, they could have easily used the SEALs for the more physically demanding stunts in the film.  This wouldn't have compromised the acting or the action.

Though based on true stories, Act of Valor feels more like a videogame at times.  Gritty, visceral action sequences are interspersed with awful, poorly acted dialogue scenes.  If that's not a game, I don't know what is.  Because McCoy and Waugh spend the majority of the film focusing on the hard lives of the Navy SEALs on duty, there's a limited time for the novice actors to screw up the movie with poor acting.  Given this, Act of Valor gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer during this one.