It’s easy to write off Act of Valor, a spry adventure entry starring real-life Navy SEALs, as modded-up high-gloss jingoism for the Xbox generation, but separate the men from the machine before passing judgment.
Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, who began their relationship after filming promos for the Navy’s SWCC force, boldly decided combat-trained soldiers would produce a better action film than actors attempting to fill their boots. It’s a move toward realism on its face, but it also represents a shift in on-screen military storytelling — less clutching of yellowed photos and melodramatic death scenes, more real-deal tactics and strategy. Viewed as an action movie alone, this is an energetic one, skipping across the globe (Costa Rica, Somalia, the Philippines) while the team chases a Chechnyan terrorist who plans on moving a group of suicide bombers over American borders.
Valor’s most profound weakness is not the stiff line readings (they’re not actors), but the directors’ heavy reliance on the down-the-gun-barrel perspective familiar to video gamers. Repeatedly likening the very real missions of these very real SEALs to a first-person shooter is a move pandering to Call of Duty addicts, discoloring the honorifics framing the firefights.