Act of Valor

Navy SEALS are among the most elite of our American military.  To say that their training regimen is rigorous would be an understatement.  These men have unmatched dedication to country and they reject accolades and recognition.  On the contrary, the selfless nature of their service and the demands placed upon them require absolute anonymity.  Recently the SEALS have garnered more attention due to their successful elimination of Osama Bin Laden last year.  Last night I viewed Act of Valor, a movie that has been marketed as action-packed and groundbreaking due to its inclusion of real life active duty Navy SEALS.  The concept of the movie is amazing, and I was mesmerized watching the SEALS in action, but I was unimpressed with Act of Valor as a whole.

The movie centers on the mission of a particular group of SEALS who are tasked with recovering a kidnapped CIA agent.  The agent is Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez, Without a Trace), who had been posing as a doctor while gathering intelligence on an arms smuggler and drug dealer named Christo (Alex Vedov, We Own the Night).  Christo is suspected of conspiring with Abu Shabal, a Ukranian terrorist and former childhood friend who is plotting an attack on American soil.  Morales was monitoring their relationship and when she got too close she was abducted.  The movie focused primarily on her rescue mission and its fallout as well as the backstory of two SEALS, one of whom is an expectant first-time father.  The SEALS are portrayed as a band of brothers whose focus on family and country is paramount.  They are salt-of-the earth people who live by a basic, unwavering code of bravery and sacrifice.  I’m sure this aspect of the story will resonate with many people in America’s heartland, a place where these attributes are similarly revered.

Welp, it’s my job to critique the movie, and despite the overwhelming surge of patriotism Act of Valor may inspire, it was not without its flaws.  There are plenty of excellent documentaries on the Navy SEALS and other elite branches of the military, such as the Army Rangers.  I’d suggest watching one of those if you want insight into what a day in their life would be like.  The dramatization provided by Act of Valor was very intense and exciting, and there were some hear-stopping battle scenes, but those scenes were not enough to hold the movie together.  An entire movie is the sum of its parts.  There was little character development, and that may have been to underscore the idea that no one SEAL is above his team.  I thought maybe the filmmakers wanted to de-emphasize their individuality, much as a SEAL might do in real life.  But there is a moment in the film where clearly I as a member of the audience am expected to sympathize with a character and be moved by their sacrifice.  Perhaps if his character were developed beyond cursory expository dialogue, I would have been moved.

That wasn’t the only issue I had with the movie, and I’m going to choose my next words carefully.  As an American whose freedoms are protected every day by our servicemen and women, I can’t express my gratitude enough.  The two principal characters, who I assume are real SEALS – should be commended for their service.  Unfortunately, the acting in this move was not as praiseworthy.  I feel bad for even saying that, but I have to give an honest assessment of any acting performance.  I thought a lot of the dialogue between the SEALS was hokey and poorly delivered.  I don’t mean to be overly critical, and I’m sure the filmmakers have made even more Americans appreciative of our soldiers with the creation of this film.  But as a cinematic offering, I think it faltered in certain places.  The movie excelled when it focused on the SEAL’s duties and their field operations, not their personal lives, which highlighted the deficiencies in the main characters’ acting abilities.  This is just one person’s opinion.  Please don’t revoke my American citizenship!

This article first appeared at and was reprinted with permission.

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