Entertaining Peery: Act of Valor. McCoy + Waugh (2012)
February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
The way the world perceives the USA is largely through the lense of our media, especially film. I interact with a lot of people from all over the world and I always find it interesting when they comment on something in the US as “just like the movies.”
Act of Valor I think works as equal parts a filmic memorial monument to fallen warriors “down range” and message to the world that this is how the SEALs throw down. The first part is easily evident from the listing of every fallen Naval Special Warfare soldier since 9/11. The second part I deduced from the perfect balance of near and present danger foes of the US depicted by the film:
- Russian Arms Dealers / Smugglers
- Islamic Extremists spanning Chechnya to the Phillipines
- Drug Cartels and FARC guerrillas
- Human Smugglers tunneling under the US-Mexico border
The film depicts active duty SEALs engaging these groups with lethal precision and contingency, ultimately willing to die to complete the missions and save lives of not only their countrymen, but of their teammates.
This use of real SEALs is partially successful. Using non-actors is always a gamble and challenge for even the best of directors. Here I will not blame the SEALs for stilted line delivery, but the director and writers for not working with them better. It has been reported that the mission operations were scripted by the SEALs themselves. This paid dividends in the action sequences and where using the SEALs was successful. One could argue having advisors during production would be similar, but having the SEALs vested more completely in the production insured the realism.
My suggestion for fixing the film: Candid filming of the SEALs talking about the auxiliary issues could have come across less stilted and hard to watch. Give them the topic and roll film while they talk about it and edit after the fact. Could have been much better, I feel. Also, I think the directors McCoy and Waugh should have watched more Peter Watkins films to get the gritty realism via pseudo documentary.
One other bone I have to pick with the dialog was the heavy use of military acronyms and jargon. I am the above average student/aficionado of military science and if I was scratching my head, I can imagine others might be totally lost. Sure, it lent a realism to the film, but they used high-tech looking map overlays and infographics, why not have a “pop-up” defining some of these terms, it would not be any more jarring than the other graphics, in my opinion.
One other thing about mixing actors and non-actors: I think you go all one way or the other. That way there is less chance that the cache of the actors will impact the film. For example, when Emilio Rivera appears on screen as a human smuggler, Mr. Platt leaned over and whispered “Where’s the Sons?” (of Anarchy) in which Rivera plays Mayan MC gang leader Marcus Alvarez. Also, Rosalyn Sanchez gets underused other than as a punching bag.
Lastly, I would like to add this film to my Film and Video Games class syllabus for the week I would talk about the influence of Video Games on Film. As I stated before, the film used a good number of graphic overlays; these are very similar to many video game mission and way-finding interfaces. Second, the heavy use of First Person Shooter Camera (copyright) and over the shoulder camera of the SEALs in action is a video game staple.
In conclusion, I mainly find this film interesting as a geopolitical artifact than for its entertainment value or any deeper meaning. It is a watch once kind of film and is worth the time.
Reviewed by Josh Peery.