Capsule Movie Review – Act of Valor (2012)
by HELEN GEIB
Act of Valor is a triple threat challenge to reigning filmmaking orthodoxies. First: It’s a globetrotting, guns a-blazing action movie that looks and sounds fantastic on a $12 million budget. In an era when Hollywood struggles to make a romantic comedy for less than $40 million, where does all that money go? Second: Hollywood has painted itself into a corner of a tiny windowless room with its repetitive insistence on casting the white middle-class American male as the world’s bogeyman. In stark contrast, Act of Valor‘s antagonist springs direct from the weekly news digest: A Chechen jihadist has recruited Filipino separatists as suicide bombers and purchased the smuggling services of a Russian drug trafficker and a Mexican cartel. Third: The approved subjects for cinema verite treatment are the marginalized, the young, and the politically disaffected (preferably in the conjunctive). Act of Valor is an indie docudrama featuring Navy Seals. Two of the senior team members are tasked with carrying a representative dramatic subplot. How should I put this? Acting won’t be their second career. However, the docu-truthfulness of the dialogue compensates for the stiffness of the delivery, and the docu-realism of the operations is never less than riveting.
One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: The rescue operation is terrific from start to finish. Independent of the limitations imposed by a cast composed mostly of non-professionals, a lot of the exposition is clumsily handled.