Real SEAL – Act of Valour review

Act of Valour  – Starring real, uncredited Navy SEALs. Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

Jeremy Renner is a fine actor, and he seems like a really nice guy, but I would never suggest he be sent to defuse bombs in Iraq just because he starred in The Hurt Locker. Conversely, the real life Navy SEALs that populate the cast of Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh‘s Act of Valour are no doubt heroic individuals with unparalleled skills in the field. They certainly won’t be called upon to play Hamlet anytime soon.

This isn’t a documentary, despite its unique showcase of professional soldiers, both active and retired (full names have not been released on account of their continued security). But just because professionals have been hired instead of civilians doesn’t mean the movie is any closer to capturing truth. When it comes to cinema, actors – or at least the good ones – are the real professionals, able to capture the essence of a character, or create one from scratch; to wordlessly convey emotion and experience change.

The soldiers featured here do not have these tools, and they even struggle to communicate the rote dialogue regarding military strategy in a natural manner (let alone the casual patter – oh, good heavens, the casual patter!). Since when did ‘having the uniform at home’ qualify as the only pre-requisite for someone’s employment? If that has indeed become the case, you can look forward to my imminent casting in Easter Bunny: Origins.

Act of Valour primarily concerns two officers, Dave and Rorke; the latter has a pregnant wife at home, and speaks often of leaving the force and taking a safe security posting at the White House, so it’s clear he will definitely get back safely. When CIA agent Morales (Roselyn Sánchez) is kidnapped and tortured for tracing drug smuggler Christo (Alex Veadov), Navy SEAL Team 7 is sent in to rescue her by any means necessary.

We’re offered a nice insight into the skilled approach taken by the SEALs to infiltrate her captors’ compound, and execute without hesitation. Too often, however, the action takes on a clumsy first-person approach, complete with night-vision goggles and clarity-obfuscating chaos. Act of Valour is probably just an ad for the inevitable video game; it’s a much more lucrative industry than moviemaking these days. Once Morales has been recovered, her intel reveals that Christo has ties to a terrorist cell intent on attacking America from within. Dave, Rorke, and the rest of their men will have to act fast – and, with valour? – to save the U.S. of A from her foreign enemies.

Scripted by Kurt Johnstad, the film’s thematic geopolitical muddiness and exhausting, unquestioning jingoism – though troubling – are but a small stain compared to the oil-spill awfulness of the execution. There is not a single human being in Team 7, whereas the terrorists – played by actual actors – seem to have at least a slight shade of grey to their evil. The two/only explosive set pieces are divided by a canyon of cringe-worthy dialogue delivered by acting amateurs, and depicted with cinematic incompetence. The SEALs’ service to their country and the world is appreciated. When it comes to the arts, I respectfully request they stand down.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Act of Valour arrives in Australian cinemas May 3, 2012.

8 Responses to “Real SEAL – Act of Valour review”

  1. Agree that the acting is not high quality as they are Navy Seals…so lucky enough acting is minimal through-out the movie. Which means awesome action scenes!!
    Don’t expect anyone to win acting awards for this movie, yet watch if you like a good action movie. I am not a gamer yet has strong gamer elements/camera work.

    Quote of the movie “my sh!t filter is full”

    Overall 3.5/5.

    p.s. I dont remember Stallone winning many acting awards….but I watch Expendables before I go to bed every night.

  2. Great movie. All the critisicm of the acting skills are irrelavent in my book. These men are quiet professionals in real life and the usual hollywood trashy dialoque would have ruined it. Their ability to get the job done with a minimum of fuss showed in this movie. I felt like I was there with them – do the job, don’t talk about it all day… Hollywood stars would have robbed the movie of its authenticity. 9 out of 10…… Great stuff.

  3. when you are ihe sh*t, the last thing on your mind is acting.
    Beside, isn’t acting; reacting?

    and that is what they do; the react to situations because in
    combat, your reactions have little time for thinking so you have to make split decisions; expect the worse and hope for the best.

    semper fi,

    remember, you might not like how they act but this is how it is; war actors have made Americans see what make believe wars are and think that all wars are like that. They are not. They are bloody, dirty, hungy, and they suck.

  4. Just read your full review of the film. I would agree an actor may be able to convey nuanced emotion, and perhaps even capture parts of the essence of a character, such as a Navy SEAL. However that is merely an imitation, based upon the actor’s “take” on what it must be like to be a SEAL. No actors, other than those who have actually served in combat while in the US military REALLY know what it is like to leave home and family to hunt and kill those who threaten the US and its interests. Their acting would only be a supposition of what it is like. True, the dialogue may be a bit dry at times, but war is not a Shakespeare play. It may not be a documentary, but it is impossible to get the camera angles of Act of Valor while shooting a documentary. Look at Restrepo — rarely does the camera team gets a good view, and more often than not they’re ducking from bullets themselves, the enemy is well concealed, and the whole production portrays only a small portion of combat.

    I really appreciated the work that the directors, camera personnel, editors, and SEALS put into making this movie as true to life as possible. There’s no doubt the film focuses on the combat side of things. The use of live ammunition adds to the intensity and realism. The dialogue is to give the viewer context as to why the combat is necessary, and as such, it takes a secondary role in terms of the production effort.

    To be honest, I think there’s no need to infuse it with more nuanced emotion; it already comes through. As I tried to imagine myself in their situation, both at home and in the field, I felt plenty of emotion, from the adrenaline rush of the miniguns lighting up a pickup truck, to the heartache of leaving a loving wife and unborn child at home. For those who have served, they will feel those twinges of emotion that they may have ‘boxed up,’ and will associate with this on a deeper level than the everyday citizen.

    I think this is one film the Rotten Tomatoes critics are ill-equipped to critique, as I doubt few, if any of them, have experienced military life.

  5. If Simon had ever been In Harms way and Experenced WAR be it Jungle,Desert,or Urban perhaps he would have the proper perspective but untill that time he needs to pull his head out of his posteror long enough to realize he lacks Cahonies and the calling to TRUELY serve his country call it Patriotism, Bravery, Duty to honestly view this as a War Docu-Drama rather than Mindless Entertainment for Woosey Candy Ass Arm Chair Critics..

  6. Hey Simon. Go suck an egg. (jingoism?!! )

  7. Simon, “Acting” is for soft people who don’t know what real life looks like. You’re right, these guys would look stupid trying to do hamlet or little shop of horrors since that’s make believe stuff from the 16th century. You somehow think Tom Cruise, Arnold S. and Stallone could have made a movie about seals? it would have been cheesy and a joke. This movie is gold, the real deal and you are out of your reckoning on this movie, but that’s forgivable as it is not a regular movie. It is authentic and who needs dramatic dialogue when the actions are true?.

  8. As someone who serves is currently serving as in the United States Navy as a Seabee I agree with those above who have commented that 1. This movie does evoke a more connected response from those of us in the military versus civilians who have never experienced the military life. 2. I think it is refreshing to see the unpolished nature of the SEALs performances in this movie. I am really sick and tired of the overly embellished crap coming out of Hollywood both on the big screen and television when it comes to the military and war shows / movies. This movie exudes realism because of the real life clumsiness of the dialogue. Real people and real members of the military don’t converse with one another in the same manner as actors deftly acting out scripted lines. ie: normal people don’t converse like actors in a movie therefore what Simon calls bad acting in this movie is actually a positive for me. Anyway, I think first and foremost this is a great tribute to all members of the military as it offers a glimpse into our world even though few of us are in special forces there are still many scenes, lines and verbage in this movie that are true to life when it comes to how we in the military actually converse with one another. Many of the funny one-liners are ones I have heard before in the military long before this movie was made…especially in the NAVY. “My S*** Filter is Full” is one I have heard for years….certainly not new but still a line that makes those of us in the NAVY laugh as it strikes a chord with us. At least the producers of this movie didn’t make any stupid mistakes with regard to protraying the military in the proper way. Example: Yes, in real life we call a Senior Chief “Senior” and we call a Petty Officer by his or her title “Petty Officer Smith” not just “Petty Officer.” (See stupid mistake perpertrated by NCIS). Too many times civilians screw up when trying to properly protray the military. These guys got it right. The lines, the jokes, the military jargon are all true to life. I like this movie and I don’t care what the critics think. This movie rises above the red carpet of Hollywood crap.

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