Act of Valor
Directed by Scott Waugh, Mouse McCoy. Starring Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle, Lt. Rorke, Dave, Van O. (2012, R, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 2, 2012
Coming as it does on the heels of Navy SEAL Team 6’s stunning capture of the Osama bin Laden compound, Act of Valor, which builds a narrative around real SEALs in action, comes at a time of heightened interest and celebration. Using real SEAL team members in the lead roles must have sounded like a good idea in the film’s planning stages, but there is a reason Hollywood invented screen tests. Onscreen magnetism is an intangible thing, and the qualities that make a person effective on the battlefield do not necessarily translate to the silver screen. Most of these men look and sound vaguely similar, and when cloaked in military garb and camouflage, they become even harder to distinguish. The screenplay by Kurt Johnstad melds several missions into one overarching international terrorism plot, which effectively ups the battle quotient and diminishes any character development or even differentiation. A voiceover prologue and denouement delivered by Dave quotes lots of military strategists, especially Tecumseh, and establish his deep friendship with Lt. Rorke. But as soon as we learn that Rorke’s wife is pregnant with the couple’s first child, we fear for his safety. The rules of Hollywood are certain to outgun the rules of warfare.Despite the weak performances and the scattershot screenplay, the film is visually terrific. Shane Hurlbut’s camerawork is crisp and gritty, and though it effectively conveys a first-person point of view, Act of Valor nevertheless feels more like a game than movie. With no investment in the characters and a diluted plot about terror, terror everywhere and interconnected, the film starts looking and sounding redundant and overly long – which it isn’t. Like many a mission, I’m sure, Act of Valor sounds better on paper than it plays on film.