A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Act of Valor" contains hard-hitting combat footage, relentless and effective. There is a story behind the film that is no less engrossing. In an introduction, its co-directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, speak directly to the audience, describing how they got involved in a film about the Navy SEALs, how they were embedded with an actual SEAL unit — and how, when that project grew into a fiction film, they determined to use real SEALs and not professional actors.
The early version of the film, according to reporting by Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times, was variously intended as a training or recruitment film, and was made outside the usual Department of Defense guidelines for motion pictures. It now emerges as a thriller involving two (non-factual) scenarios, one about a SEALs mission to free a kidnapped CIA operative (Roselyn Sanchez), the other about a plot to smuggle terrorists into the United States through tunnels from Mexico constructed by drug cartels.
The details in both of these scenarios seem realistic — although how would I know? The co-directors and their team have produced an accomplished, riveting action movie. I am reminded of the initial impact of films like Oliver Stone's "Platoon" and Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker," which both told convincing and authentic stories. "Act of Valor," however, centers more on action and much less on the human elements involved.
The central characters are played by actual Navy SEALs, who were apparently on active duty during the filming and still are. This makes it difficult to write the ordinary kind of review, because none of their real names are revealed and indeed some of the characters seem to have no names at all. I learn from Rebecca Keegan's article that the characters named Chief Dave and Lt. Rorke are played by SEALs whose real first names are Dave and Rorke. Thanks a lot. The official cast listing is a baffling mixture of characters without names and names with "uncredited" roles, and doesn't include either Chief Dave and Lt. Rorke, so I am reduced to describing the experience and not the performances.