Act of Valor [Blu-Ray] Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh

Act of Valor [Blu-Ray] Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh
Every movie needs a gimmick and Act of Valor's is a doozy: imagine a combat film starring real soldiers! Finally the real experience of battle can be brought to the screen! Okay, so Act of Valor is neither the first movie to strive for a new look at the harrowing realism of war, nor is it the first to employ non-professional actors. But it is the first to omit any screen credits of any kind for its principle actors in the interest of national security. The main players in Act of Valor are active duty SEALS, unidentified in the credits and referred to only by last names or nicknames like "Lt. Roarke" or "Senior," essentially playing themselves. They embark upon a mission to rescue a captured C.I.A. operative (Roselyn Sanchez), which in turn leads them to a drug trafficker (Alex Veadov), who is connected to his childhood friend, a wild-eyed Chechen jihadist (Jason Cottle) bent on destroying every major city in the U.S. with a undetectable dirty bomb. Casting amateurs can be tricky, but the soldiers acquit themselves nicely. Extended dialogue scenes are kept to a minimum and the heat-of-battle stuff, which might be a challenge for even method-schooled actors to pull off, comes across seamlessly. Act of Valor is fascinating not so much as a film in and of itself, but as an act of filmmaking. It is somewhat jingoistic, awkwardly sentimental (especially in its coda) and more than a little self-aggrandising. There is an absence of self-critique that was present in The Hurt Locker or Generation Kill, and while the film never purports to be a pure documentary, there is the implication that the realness inherent in casting honest-to-gosh Navy SEALS makes the film superior in a way that no highfalutin' Hollywood production with a bunch of fancy pants actors could ever dream of. However, that doesn't dilute the fact that Act of Valor is, for the most part, a cracking action film, with several combat set pieces that can only adequately be described as audacious. While directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh run out of staging ideas in the final third, where the film takes on the uncomfortable look of a first-person shooter videogame, their use of lightweight digital cameras is a testament to both their willingness to experiment and the advancement of the medium itself. This is a movie that probably could not have been made with the same visual acuity even two or three years ago. The Blu-Ray is packed with extras, including a commentary track and several making-of featurettes, all of which serve to express just how close to reality the whole endeavour was. It's admirable, but a touch overkill. (Alliance)