Valor is “Determination in facing great danger, especially in battle.” The United States Navy SEALs exude that honor and right in unbelievable ways. To demonstrate what type of heart and courage it takes to be one of these ‘Damn Few’ is the Bandito Brothers (Dust to Glory)latest film, Act of Valor.
Being a fan of war and military movies I knew that this film was in my target range. A few classics are ones like Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. You don’t get better than Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall, you just don’t. Or what about a classic like Oliver Stone’s Platoon? Or Speilberg’s Saving Private Ryan?And who could forget the chilling scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket? So when seeing another military film you have an expectancy of what it should be and live up to. This film far exceeded my wants. I was not ready for the authenticity of the action and drama.
Written by Kurt Johnstad (300), Act of Valor’s action was a culmination of various scenarios that SEALs have dealt with in the past and currently dealing with. Stuntmen turned Directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh used real Navy SEALs as the actors for this picture and it was probably the most brilliant casting to date. Sure the SEALs don’t have the Don Juan demeanor or a predicted reaction like an actor might have to reel you in but where they SEALs hook you is that they are genuine and verifiably raw. There were some points in the film where you might think that’s bad acting but it’s not bad acting, it’s called reality. When you talk to your buddy in passing you don’t cleverly talk like Maverick or Goose you gesture to them in a normal manner. That’s what the acting was, pure reality.
To add to the intensity of the film was the score. The music in this flick was spot on. Being a fan of music in films I am very particular about what production does on the back end with music and sound effects. Composer Nathan Furst and the music department colored the plot with precision. My heart strings were being strummed at every perfect moment.
If you’re an action aficionado like I am you want to be in the thick of it all. You wish you were the actors that were fighting the enemy, or you wish you were the secret agent that was foiling a plan put in place by a cartel. In Act of Valor there were many first person angles and helmet cameras where you felt like you are the SEAL in combat. The intensity of bullets flying, rockets launching, and terror lurking around the corner had my fists clenched in sweat for most of the film. The premise is that the SEALs have to go rescue a kidnapped CIA agent overseas. The problem is that they uncover a deeper problem involving a drug smuggler and an anti-American Jihad terrorist. These ideas hit very close to home tugging at your heart and fueling aggression with every breath you take. What’s incredible is you feel inclusive in the mission because they take you step by step like you are part of the brotherhood. You get to see the SEALs with their family and kids. You see them bid farewell to their wives right before they leave on an assignment that may never bring them back home. Narrated by one of the SEALs, he says individually they are twigs which are frail but you put a bundle of twigs together and you’re solid. This is the camaraderie and the code that they lived by. It was sewn throughout the story through conflict and drama. Side by side they heckled each other to loosen up right before deploying on a Halo jump beyond enemy lines which was filmed beautifully. Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut (Terminator:Salvation, Semi-Pro) created a fantasy for your eyes with the pungent colors and speedy action. It was so memorable that after the film one of the first things I spoke about was the look of the picture. Although it seemed like a documentary because of the true action it still had a high gloss blockbuster feel. My hopes are that this ace in the hole is an Oscar contender for multiple categories.
For the action junkie this film will tempt your most inner inhibitions. The bad boy toys that are used in Act of Valor range from Uzi’s, AK’s, M4A1 Carbines, General Dynamics GAU-17/A, M72 LAWs, RPG’s, you name it and it was used. But for you that have no idea what I just said then you will enjoy this film for possibly another reason. One being the love story and not the one between a man and a woman. The love story here is between men. Its the love that these silent soldiers have amongst each other that makes them lay down their lives for one another. They are willing to give up everything even if it means losing it all. The chief says in the film when you die don’t be fearful, die singing your death song. This film hit on so many of my emotions that I felt drained when I walked out of the theater. I laughed, cried, got angry, felt compassion, was fearful, and was hopeful. These men are out there in combat ensuring our safety here in the United States. I’m writing freely today because of these men. I felt proud walking out of this film. Thanks to the Bandito Bros the world knows a little bit more about this elite team of warriors. This is the action film of the year without a doubt in my mind. Go out and reward your soul with the epic imagery in the Act of Valor.