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