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Act of Valour

Act of Valour

Released 23 March 2012
Director Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
Starring Real life Navy SEALs
Writer(s) Kurt Johnstad
Producer(s) Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
Origin United States
Running Time 110 minutes
Genre Action, adventure, thriller
Rating TBC

Modern warfare.

Act of Valour is not a great film but it is definitely an interesting one. This is a post Vietnam, post Iraq war movie, that is nevertheless completely uncritical of America’s rules of engagement and of its troops. The level of eulogising seen here is usually reserved for World War II, before the line between military good and evil became as blurred as it is today. In Act of Valour, it’s as if Abu Gharib never existed.

A quick look at the production notes will explain this; Act of Valour has the full backing of the Pentagon and stars some real life Navy Seals (which explains the bad acting). Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh have essentially produced a piece of propaganda. These soldiers are family men, interested in poetry and philosophy. They would die for their brothers in arms and hot damn do they love their country! There are no shades of grey. The effect is startling; having become so familiar with the modern war film, this frequently feels like a Team America style send up.

We follow a team of Navy Seals as they attempt to rescue a CIA agent who has been kidnapped by a criminal called Christo (greasy hair, suspicious glasses). In the course of the mission, they discover a plan to mount an attack on U.S. soil masterminded by a terrorist named Abu Shabal (facial scar, penchant for hats). It’s a hackneyed plot with dialogue ripe as fine Camembert. Where the movie excels though, is in its action sequences.

Here, we come to the second interesting thing about Act of Valour; it looks and feels more like a computer game than a movie. Each time the Seals go into battle is like a new level. The editing is frenetic and the camerawork frantic; often switching to a first person perspective, placing the audience behind the gun. Even the ham-fisted attempts at exposition between fire-fights have the feel of those woodenly acted cut sequences that will be familiar to any gamer. The result is a bizarre cinema experience but also genuinely (if somewhat guiltily) exciting.

So, it’s a strange fish; certainly an interesting addition to the genre of the war film and very much of its time. I just hope this piece of propaganda is taken with the large pinch of salt it deserves.

- Linda O’Brien