Act of Valor | Film review
Propaganda, now at a theater near you.
Given the opportunity to make a feature-length recruitment film, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh cast actual Navy SEALs and their families in scripted roles. The result is a bizarre hybrid of propagandistic action sequences and earnest speechifying. The strategizing scenes have the ring of authenticity, while the “candid” exchanges seem suspiciously posed: A moment of the men (known only by their first names) comparing family crests has a stilted quality reminiscent of Lionel Rogosin’s staged documentaries. Early footage of skydiving and surfing on the home front gives off the pulse-quickening veneer of a real-world Point Break, but once the missions take off, the coupling of sleek technology and an uncomplicated imperial ethos suggests Ron Paul may have a point on defense spending.
Globe-trotting from the Philippines to Somalia to Latin America, the film climaxes in a Chechen jihadist’s attempted attack on the U.S. through Mexico under the cover of drug cartels. (Apart from endorsing the notion of a unified global terror alliance, this supposedly fact-based narrative conveniently cashes in on xenophobic fervor.) The ticking-time-bomb scenario plays out: An interrogator captures a smuggler (Alex Veadov) and persuades him to reveal details on an invasion that will “make 9/11 look like a walk in the park.” After the courageous raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, it’s hard to begrudge the movie its steroidal patriotism, and the testament to the team’s camaraderie (and the families’ pain) is legitimately moving. But from an aesthetic standpoint, Act of Valor suggests a video game designed by Leni Riefenstahl.