Friday, February 24, 2012

Act of Valor Review

What is goin on, Internet?  I'd like to begin this discussion by saying that I have not served in the military and most likely never will.  I cannot fathom the sacrifice it takes to serve our great country and to put one's life on the line as our service-men and women do daily.  Therefore, I have no personal knowledge of actual military tactics outside of what I've seen in film and video games; breach and clear, perimeters, etc.  That said, I do have a strong fondness for the military and things involving the military.  Call of Duty is one of my favorite gaming franchises (regardless of its inaccuracies to real combat) and Saving Private Ryan is my all-time favorite film.  I was incredibly excited for Act of Valor; a film starring real, active-duty Navy SEALs.  Knowing the leads weren't professional actors cast some doubt on the final product, but I'm pleased to say that AoV is an action-packed thrill ride that will not disappoint.

Act of Valor should've been called Call of Duty because its probably the best CoD film we could ever hope for.  Despite the obvious parallels to the best-selling video game franchise, AoV operates with a grounded reality that just isn't present in most modern action films and games.  CoD is chock-full of over-the-top action set pieces that just don't happen in real combat.  And that's fine.  There's a place for that in entertainment and it does a damn fine job delivering on that.  Don't get me wrong, AoV has plenty of action set pieces, with thousands of rounds being fired and explosions left and right.  But it does so with an authenticity that can be completely and wholly believed.  Its no secret that many of the action scenes were planned and developed by the SEALs on-set to capture that sense of authenticity; they planned each assault as if it were real.  And they look damn real.  I cannot begin to describe the intensity with which each firefight is captured on film.  At times I honestly felt like I watching footage of real combat.

The aforementioned intensity that is present on screen is captured brilliantly through the use of a first-person perspective (FPP), which will draw heavy comparisons to Call of Duty.  I'm a huge sucker for FPP when used effectively in film.  There were very small bits of this in District 9, but plenty in AoV.  I won't lie, after the first few shots from a FPP I felt a bit annoyed, but by the third act's final sequence of confrontations I was completely on board and loving every second of it.  A FPP allows the viewer to see what the soldiers are seeing and adds to the visceral intensity of the numerous firefights.  And first-person views aren't relegated solely to the battlefield; there are several instances of a FPP of someone driving a truck, for instance.  It may annoy some viewers, but honestly, me being accustomed to such viewpoints after playing first-person shooters for over a decade, I absolutely loved its use in Act of Valor.

While a terrorist-hunting action-film at its heart, Act of Valor does a mediocre job of letting us get a sense as to who the SEALs really are.  That's not necessarily what this film is about.  Instead, we learn their names through a quick voice-over during a beach party the night before the team is deployed.  And honestly, there really isn't a need to remember each squad member's name as the two leads are really the only characters we get to know.  Due to the fact that these men are active-duty, their names cannot be released to the public.  Therefore, they are absent from AoV's IMDb page.  That means that their characters' names are absent as well.  Even being the two leads, we really only get to see the life of one; he's a family-man with five children and a sixth on the way.  He's really the only member of the team we the viewer can connect and identify with.  Any insight into these men's lives is delivered via voice-over throughout the film by the other lead.  With all of this said, I was emotionally invested during a critical event in the third act that prompted a physical reaction in me that doesn't often happen during most films.  I felt attached and sympathetic despite the lack of real emotional development.

Act of Valor is very much an action film and it succeeds 110% at that.  The plot is simple enough that we can follow, but isn't necessarily bland, either .  Rather, we're able to work through the plot details fairly quickly and just sit back and watch the bullets fly.  If you are an action film fan then I cannot recommend AoV highly enough.  It will satisfy you on every level.  If you're interested in a plot-heavy, emotionally engaging film with great character work, AoV is not for you.  It accomplishes those on a basic to sub-par level that will leave some wanting.  A quick note about the acting: most of the men and women in this film are not actors.  And this shows through much of the dialogue.  There are moments where you can clearly tell they are not professionals; however, there are a few scenes in which the dialogue is not stilted and delivered believably.  As most would've guessed, its quite a mixed bag.  At the end of the day I loved this movie and will probably end up seeing it many times.

Act of Valor is a thrilling, action-packed, bullet-riddled war film that will blow you away...but not with dialogue or character-work.

Bullet to play some Call of Duty.

No comments:

Post a Comment