The SEAL in Navy SEAL stands for Sea, Land, and Air Team. Act of Valor makes abundant use of these three separate environments to showcase the U.S. military’s tactical prowess in effectively attacking enemies from any of these mediums. The point of showing the audience such lethal proficiency seems to be overt naval propaganda. There are teenagers who see this film who will be more than tempted to walk from the theater to the nearest Navy recruiter with dreams of skydiving, shooting, and saving the United States from the bad guys.
Keeping up with recent trends, the bad guys here are jihadists, but not of the Arabic persuasion. Instead, the mastermind is a Chechen fundamentalist. To make it a truly menacing international brand of terrorism, the financing comes from Central American narcotic cartels and the mules are Filipinos. Bringing in so many ethnicities is the perfect excuse to stage assault scenes in the jungle, the desert, and on the beach to impress upon the audience that the SEALs will kill you anywhere on the globe under any circumstances.
These SEALs on the screen, by the way, are real-life Navy SEALs. To protect their identities, their names are not in the credits and they look physically capable of all of the stunts they perform. At the same time, their wooden acting during awkward buddy scenes is on full display. A major stumbling block in Act of Valor are those scenes between the shoot-em-ups where the team leaders talk about their girls back home or exchange surprised reactions when they learn what their next objective is. The cheesiest part of the film is how the Team Leader, Lt. Rorke, is set up from the beginning as a new dad in waiting. His wife finds out she is pregnant just as the Lt. leaves for his next deployment. To mark time, the film will show his wife in montage with a bigger bump than the last time we saw her so we think ‘Ok, six months have passed now’.
The film’s timing is tricky because the script moves quite fast. As new intelligence is being gathered on the villain’s next move, the SEAL team is already conducting an operation to thwart them. One must forgive the audience for thinking that the whole operation lasts only a week or so even though the film technically takes place over nine months. However, the audience may not notice the uneven timing because the action scenes are very good. The camera work is top notch and the assorted tactics the SEALs use to take down the bad guys are really impressive. The team has a sniper, an explosives expert, a radio man, and they all are formidable marksmen.
Be aware though that Act of Valor is truly a propaganda picture ala a World War I or II film encouraging the audience to support the war effort and buy war bonds. The SEALs on screen are there to elicit your sympathy and urge you to get behind the flag and support the warfighter. There are explicit messages being conveyed and precise camera shots to shape your thoughts to not only support the U.S. military in its endeavors, but specifically the Navy SEALs as they are the good guys protecting America from the bad guys intent on destroying our way of life. If a little overt propaganda does not bother you, then sit back and enjoy some creative and deadly action sequences.