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Act of Valor: Propaganda for the US Navy in the Form of an Action Film
Don’t let the packaging fool you, Act of Valor is a recruitment video and a propaganda piece for the US Navy; not the benign slice of entertainment it makes itself out to be. For one, the film’s cast is made up of a mix of actors and real life Navy SEALs and while it makes for a cool gimmick – real life action heroes and all that – it just makes the propaganda feel that much more potent. On the whole the actors are pretty decent however they lack comfort in front of the camera. Their lines are kind of stilted, not enough to ruin the film but enough to prevent you from connecting with the characters.
The film deals heavily in clichés, the biggest of which being its choice of villains. It ingeniously lumps together America’s two biggest threats historically - Russians and Islamic ‘Jihadists’- giving us two bad guys; a Russian drug dealer name Christo (Veadov), who isn’t above murdering children; and Shabal (Cottle), his childhood friend who converted to Islam and promptly became an Al Qaida type of terrorist. And just to balance out the scales, the lead is also a complete cliché. He’s a goodhearted Caucasian, with a pregnant wife, whose idea of having a good time is hanging out on the beach surfing with his Navy SEAL buddies and their families.
The film milks his situation for all it’s worth; focusing on the fact that he’s protecting his country despite the danger involved and despite the fact that he may never see his unborn child. It’s a noble sentiment but not when it’s forced down your throat and not when it’s in such a biased context. The film is so out of touch with reality that during an interrogation scene, the US commander promises Christo that if he doesn’t cooperate, he’d be locked up but not harmed physically. His only punishment would supposedly be missing out on his wife and daughter’s lives. While we weren’t expecting the film to portray the evils of the American military system, a little nuance of the truth would’ve been nice.
On the bright side, the film has some pretty decent action scenes which make up most of the story. The film’s basic setup revolves around retrieving a kidnapped CIA agent who uncovered the link between Christo and Shabal. Once they get her back, they discover that the duo are smuggling a gang of suicide bombers into the US, wearing high tech explosive vests that can pass through metal detectors without setting off the alarm. Their mission evolves into finding and preventing the gang from entering the US and setting off a national hysteria reminiscent of 9/11. While there’s a ton of the usual gunfights and stakeouts, if the film’s portrayal of the Navy SEALs’ activities is anything to go by, skydiving is apparently an integral part of their lives and it honestly looks pretty sweet. The action sequences are full of close ups and over the shoulder shots designed to make it feel more real and, for the most part, it succeeds.
Despite the decent action sequences, it’s impossible to ignore or overlook the film’s politics. In this era of the ‘War on Terror’ you just can’t get away with things that are blatantly untrue. It’s quite unsettling; the film rewrites history and glorifies war to a completely unacceptable degree.
First, it’s important to establish that we cannot place the blame in its entirety on Ramez Galal for his sadistic show. A big part of the blame should fall on us, the viewers, who eagerly wait for pranks and spike the show’s ratings, even reaching the point where café owners will blast these shows on large TVs to attract customers. It’s time to admit that there’s a sadist in all of us.
The premise of the show is a guest will come in to film an episode about the World Cup on a zodiac boat out at sea. The boat malfunctions, one of the presenters dives in to see what’s wrong, and the events quickly escalate to the boat sinking with the guest and a fake shark attack.
In the episode with Rania Mahmoud Yassin and Mohamed Riad, it’s interesting to point out that the boat didn’t sink entirely, and Rania kept a firm clutch on her sunglasses in a situation where any normal person would’ve let go of his/her belongings in exchange for safety. We ignored these points at first, but after several mentions on TV and by other viewers, we couldn’t help but wonder.
The show comes with a lot of legal issues this year, of which, a case that Athar El Hakim filed against Galal, banning her episode from airing, under the pretence that the prank extremely frightened her. The truth behind that is in question, after a video of her discussing her pay for the episode was leaked. Other legal issues concerning the show include damage to marine life from planting metal poles to support the hidden cameras.
Because nothing is black and white, it’s important to admit Galal’s sense of humour and experience, especially when it’s imitated by an artist like Mohamed Fouad in his show “Fo’sh Fil Mo’askar”, a stale and completely void of humour prank show.
We have to admit, we were impressed by the shark boat Galal uses to rescue the guests. He is a smart actor who was able to establish himself within Ramadan TV and create shows that people wait for year to year.
One of the main reasons why 21 Jump Street – the 2012 reboot of the celebrated 80's TV-cop show - was such a huge box-office success was that it never took itself seriously. The sequel - perhaps one of the most anticipated comedies of the year - is smart enough to expand its comedic walking grounds and retain the same self-mocking attitude in the hilarious and entertaining, 22 Jump Street.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 22 Jump Street starts off with a 'previously on' recap of the first film – a little homage to its TV roots - which finds partners, Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill), successfully bringing down a high-school drug dealing ring.
After failing to arrest one of the most wanted criminals in the country, the duo is once again pulled back into Jump Street; the separately-financed program, run by the no-nonsense Captain Dickson (Cube). This time, however, their playground has been swapped from high school to college, where the unlikely duo must track down and put a stop to the spread of ‘WhyPhy’; a dangerous hallucinogenic that has already claimed the life of one student.
In order to fit in, the partners decide to enrol themselves in various classes and activities with Jenko going off to join the football team – and immediately bonding with the campus jock, Zook (Russell) - while Schmidt goes on to fall for art-major, Maya (Stevens). However, their relationship – and what they thought was an unbreakable bromance – is soon put to the test and if they are ever to locate the dealer and close the case, they must first find a way back to one another.
Calling 22 Jump Street a sequel is a little far-fetched as the only thing that has changed is the address. Everything else is pretty much the same. This rather clever angle, to an already established premise, is refreshing, as are the jokes and the ongoing gags that tend to mock its very own “bigger budget, bigger spectacle” premise.
One of the best things about 22 Jump Street is the onscreen pairing of Tatum and Hill, whose incredible charisma and easy chemistry. Hill, who was the shining star of the first film, seems to have taken a back seat this time around and even though his passive-aggressive attitude – and the downright hilarious ‘walk of shame’ scene – is an endless source of laughs, it’s Tatum who takes centre stage.
Funny and light, 22 Jump Street is far from perfect, but it is fresh, and most important of all, it makes you laugh.