Act of Valor is a different kind of movie that should not be judged on typical movie standards, which may be why many critics are giving it a negative rating. Anyone who doesn’t do their homework by reading about the film probably won’t know why director Mike “Mouse” McCoy and producer Scott Waugh became involved with this project. Fortunately, at the beginning of the film, both men explain about their backgrounds, what they do, and why they made Act of Valor.
In 2007 McCoy and Waugh’s production company Bandito Brothers, made a short documentary about the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen. Somewhat of a recruiting video, they wanted to detail the SEALS’ impressive skills in performing sensitive and dangerous assignments. This led to their idea for a movie that would capture authentic action as well as contain a lot of value and convincing messaging.
Act of Valor focuses on a few covert missions that a highly trained force of Navy SEALS is deployed to handle. The plot could be any military -type action-driven film where bullets fly, people die, and blood is shed. The only difference here? Action of the SEALS gets depicted by real-life SEALS, most still on active duty. McCoy and Waugh went through rigorous months of jumping through hoops to obtain official permission to film the SEALS simulating actual combat and even using live fire during the shoot.
One of the actions takes place in the Philippines where undercover CIA agent Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) has been kidnapped and brutally beaten. The SEALS are assigned to rescue her from the drug cartel, and the action that takes place feels truly authentic. It’s fascinating to watch the SEALS in exploits involving everything from the preplanning details that include knowing all about the area of the rescue to dropping the swift boats and marching through a river mostly underwater. As in real life, the SEALS communicate a lot by hand communication rather than verbally.
Another subplot concerns an international terrorist cell that – through a new un-detectable weapon – plans to pass through airport security across the U. S. and create massive explosions. Actor Jason Cottle plays Abu Shabal, one of the instigators of this plan along with Christo (Alex Veadov). The fact these two actors, as well as Sanchez, may not be recognizable to most movie fans, was the intention of the filmmakers, which helped the plot feel genuine. All three actors do a great job in the movie.
Many comments have been made about the acting skills of the SEALS. Are they ready to join SAG? Probably not. Conversations often lack authenticity, and because these are actions they do every day, emotions seem muted. Yet the SEALS were in this film to do what they do best – be men of Valor who face every dangerous situation with the ease of brushing their teeth – and they deliver on that note. While many Americans realize the sacrifice these men and women make for our freedom everyday, actually watching them in action offers a rare and exciting opportunity.
I saw the movie two times and enjoyed it more the second time than the first. I could feel the passion that drove these filmmakers for the four years needed to create this unusual film. Just learning how they pulled off a shot for the film working with the Navy to immerge a submarine at a precise time and location for only minutes, and then to actually see it in the film, was very exciting to me. In both screenings I attended the audience stood and applauded – and most stayed through the credits – something that seldom happens in regular movies. This validates the numbers currently showing the audience approval of the movie at more than 80 percent. High praise for Act of Valor also came from the 20 veterans and their wives that I invited to the film.
Photo: Lt. Rorke reacts to his frag grenade at the cartel in the Act of Valor
Photo Credits: IATM LLC / Relativity Media, LLC.