Originally Act of Valor was planned to be a recruitment film for the US Navy, but somewhere along the way decisions were made and deals were struck to turn it into a feature film. The resulting work is clearly not a propaganda piece but one that honors military personnel to the fullest extent possible.
Act of Valor in many respects is more polished and compelling that any film in recent years. In other ways Act of Valor is painfully stilted and thin. The reason for this huge discrepancy and unevenness in quality is quite simple. The filmmakers were provided unprecedented access and resources, including the ability to have lead roles being played by actual Navy Seals in this otherwise fictional story.
Therefore, in Act of Valor the ships, weapons and all other materials – including live ammunition normally provisioned by third parties is the latest and greatest our tax dollars have purchased. So, when first rate action, first rate cinematography and real military hardware joins forces, the result is absolutely stunning. However, the lead performers are Navy Seals who should be thankful they have a day job outside of film-acting. And in watching the leads in Act of Valor simulate how they perform their day job, we should be highly thankful. Thus, when the scenes depict the leads performing activities similar to their day job, Act of Valor works. When Act of Valor moves to the back-story, the script and acting are for the most part lacking (think High School stage play).
Act of Valor was produced and directed by Sam Waugh (Dust to Glory, Gearhead) and Mike McCoy (Spiderman, Last of the Mohicans) These guys are excellent and well respected stunt men and documentary makers. The screenplay was written by Kurt Johnstad (300). As Director of Photography, Shane Hurlbut (Terminator Salvation) has provided a visual presentation that had me muttering “that is very cool” numerous times throughout the film. The films score was created by Nathan Furst. Furst is a veteran of TV without much notoriety in movies. But the music in Act of Valor is quite good. It has a similar feel and quality to that Hans Zimmer’s better works, such as The Thin Red Line and The Last Samurai.
Although Act of Valor is flawed, its strengths easily outweigh its weaknesses and is very worthy of a viewing. I plan on watching it again.