31 Days of Action: Day 30 - Act of Valor

Well here’s one I certainly never expected to be watching for this. I found an out of print steel book version of this movie for 2 bucks and figured someone out there in the world must want this so why not pick it up. Since I hadn’t seen the movie it made sense to watch it before we parted ways and I realized about 10 minutes in that this totally counts as marathon fodder so while perhaps I would have chosen a different movie to be the penultimate installment of this, instead we get Act of Valor. Sorry for the unexciting denouement.

I remember Act of Valor being very divisive amongst audiences when it came out in early 2012. Critics were not kind to it but audiences ate it up. I also remember lots of talk about how conservatives were very happy to finally have a movie for them, which just made me feel bad for conservatives if they waited forever to get a movie for themselves and this is what they ended up with. Conservatives must be so lonely.

Act of Valor follows a group of Navy SEALs as they get out there and fight terrorists to save America, the hook here being that these characters are actually being played by real life SEALs and not Hollywood actors. I’ve talked a few times on here about how having a great actor in an action movie isn’t always necessary so long as they have a strong screen presence. While it’s a novel idea to use actual SEALs in the roles, these guys really don’t have that presence to make up for their very stiff acting. In certain scenes it works, such as an interrogation that I’m guessing rings true to life or anytime they’re breaking down an upcoming mission and really getting into the technical details. At that point they can really sell the material as obviously they know all about that stuff and are probably just speaking how they would on the job. It’s the in between moments when the clichéd screenplay starts to rear its head and they have to banter about their wives and kids and such. These scenes would be painfully generic in the hands of any actor but here it just makes them stand out even further as these guys just can’t sell it. Also there’s an ongoing narration that seems cobbled together from the most generic lines in cinema history. “If you aren’t willing to give up everything, you’ve already lost” and that sort of thing. Drama is not this movie’s strong suit.

I guess the strong suit would be the action but even there I have quibbles. A lot of people took issue with the movie for being ridiculously pro Navy SEALs and depicting a lot of the action in a “doesn’t this look fucking rad as fuck kids?! Put that video game controller down and get in on this shit cuz it’s the fucking tits! Come on pussy!” fashion to which I say ….yeah. I mean what did you expect? A movie that has a group of SEALs playing SEALs and doing SEALs stuff that talks shit about the SEALs? I don’t think this movie was anything but upfront about its intentions to make the SEALs look rad as fuck. Hell most of the action is shot as though you’re watching a first person shooter so I don’t think it’s any secret that maybe just maybe they want people to consider getting in on this. So no I don’t take issue with that because I expected it and since I have a functioning brain I am able to decide “Ya know, I don’t think I want to join these guys” and don’t have to worry about the whole brainwashing thing so many people seemed upset about.

No my issue is that watching an action movie largely from a first person perspective is not all that interesting. It’s like sitting and watching your friend play a video game, you can’t…holy shit. You can’t help but wish you were playing instead. Those crafty motherfuckers I played right into their hands! Ok perhaps the brainwashing thing is a real concern but it still doesn’t change that I didn’t find this approach to the action all too engaging.

There is some good stuff here  action-wise. It’s interesting to see these operations unfold as they are all supposedly based on real missions and the action is all well shot but the problem is that I was never really invested in anything that was happening. The protagonists aren’t interesting and are completely interchangeable for the most part and the terrorist plot is like a low-rent season of 24. I wasn’t bored per say, but I can’t think of too many moments that really grabbed my attention. I guess I did enjoy during the final sequence where right after a character yells “Bomb!” and then everyone jumps away in slow motion, they immediately encounter a grenade so he yells “Grenade!” and everyone once again jumps away in slow motion. That was pretty good.

Act of Valor isn’t terrible, it’s an ok time waster that has a few cool action beats and gets some mileage out of its angle of having real SEALs play the characters. …That’s all I got.

Bring on the final day! God I am so ready for it at this point.