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June 14, 2012
DVD Review: Act of Valor
— Posted by Kenny Miles
Synopsis: During the past several years, filmmakers have made introspective movies about the modern day military and the challenging environment the war on terror has provoked. These have arranged from various topics including the Best Picture winning take on an adrenaline addicted Afghan bomb squad (‘The Hurt Locker’), the objective foreign policy quagmire (‘No End in Sight’), an embedded journalist’s perspective of Afghanistan’s deadly terrain (‘Restrepo’), the lack of media clarity in war reporting (‘Control Room’), and even a melodrama with an enraged father seeking the truth (‘In the Valley of Elah’). “Act of Valor” is a film that gives us the perspective of Navy SEALs, those who love America so much they are willing to put their own lives on the line. We haven’t seen their perspectives…until now.
“Act of Valor” stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a film like no other in Hollywood’s history. “Act of Valor” takes the viewer where few have gone before which is a fictionalized account of the real life SEAL operations, . When a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA operative unexpectedly results in the discovery of an imminent, terrifying global threat, an elite team of highly trained Navy SEALs must immediately embark on a heart-stopping secret operation to prevent a lethal terrorist attack.
A relentless action movie such as “Act of Valor” wasn’t meant to offer a perspective of 21st Century warfare like the previously mentioned films, and that’s quite all right. But in its own way, it does. For the first time, actual U.S. Navy SEALs portraying on the job techniques as main characters. This is a gimmick that works. Focusing with laser precision on the logistics in conducting their top-secret missions, “Act of Valor” was an exciting, thrilling, and chaotic action adventure movie similar to the popular television show ‘24.’
Some major weaknesses prevent the film from elevating to a higher level of achievement with a few sloppy, unnecessary, slow motion clichés and glimmers of Michael Bay-esque flashy techniques, (on a smaller scale). This hindered some of what I enjoyed about the film. “Act of Valor” made that up with better and spectacular show stopping cinematography courtesy of photographer Shane Hurlbut. The acting, even from non-military service members, topped off with a very cluttered screenplay was sub par but thankfully, that’s not the draw for this movie.
Co-directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh make an impressive directorial debut putting the viewer into a video game like simulation of modern warfare. Eager to capture realistic action sequences as much possible, both these co-directors used up to 12 cameras while independently directing and filming various aspects of a scene. For one major scene the filmmakers were given GPS location to coordinate the shoot on the nuclear sub having to “shoot the entire sequence within a very limited window” (i.e. less then four hours total). These guys know what they are doing. The Navy did provide the filmmakers with access to their stations with a set agreement: “Nothing could interfere with Navy schedules and production wouldn’t cost the United States government any money.” How’s that for movie making?
Many filmmakers have covered the war on terror with various angles but they have neglected the perspective of the service members. With ‘Valor,’ the action adventure movie genre almost felt like it was being re-invented. Scott Waugh, a retired stuntman, was named by Variety as one of the 10 directors to watch for 2012. Previously he developed advertising with Electronic Arts with their games Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor. Other then being a fun, escapist adventure pic, “Act of Valor” provides another snapshot view to the incomplete collage of what modern warfare in the age of Middle East terror looks like. One that has a lot of kick ass action. So if you avoided ‘Valor’ because of the bad reviews, please give the movie another chance in a cheaper viewing format. I think most critics were distracted by the poor acting and other characteristics. After all, 25% of critics liked it on Rotten Tomatoes versus 78% of moviegoers who liked it via user app Flixster. The unexpected winter hit grossed $70 million at the box office with a solid audience response, rightfully so.
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Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.
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