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Act of Valor

Act of Valor: Propaganda for the US Navy in the Form of an Action Film

  • Alex VeadovEmilio Rivera...
  • Action & AdventureThriller
  • Mike McCoyScott Waugh
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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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.

Like This? Try

The Losers, Captain America, Saving Private Ryan.

360 Tip

The Navy SEALs became involved in the film when they objected to the unrealistic portrayal of their work.

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