Navy SEAL film plays like a bad recruitment video. These guys may deserve a great movie but this ain’t it

Film
ACT OF VALOUR
Cert: 12A
*

Starring active duty US Navy SEALs alongside a smattering of actors, this fictionalised version of real operations follows the Bandito Platoon on a straightforward mission that leads to a terrorist conspiracy of unimaginable proportions. Following extensive interviews with the troops, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh took five acts of bravery and wove them into a fictionalised story attempting to portray what it’s like to be one of the most elite and highly trained warriors of the modern world.

Though US Navy SEALs are undoubtedly impressive, it’s probably a good idea to ensure they’re never made to act in a feature film ever again. It’s cruel – both for the guys, whose wooden performances detract from their heroic feats, and for the audience who are forced to watch some truly awful acting.

The two leads (Michael and Rorke) aren’t actors for a reason, in the same way Al Pacino doesn’t attempt to extract agents from heavily guarded huts in the middle of the jungle.

Oh, and while we’re at it, can someone sit script writer Kurt Johnstad down and give him a bit of a talking to? His 300 wasn’t exactly a verbal masterpiece but these poor guys weren’t given a chance. Stilted dialogue is one thing, but top it off with a narration lifted from a (bad) recruiting video and throw in some guys unable to convey basic emotion and you’ve got a world of jingoistic cringe cinema. When not being awkwardly banterous the guys tend to look wistful as the dreaded narration drones on about fightin’ the good fight and missin’ those folks back home.

They look far more comfortable when kicking arse – watching how they work is fascinating, thanks to McCoy and Waugh’s attention to detail and, when the violence explodes, it’s a gripping blur of gunfire, exploding eyeballs and unflinching feats of human endurance.

Unfortunately, they start speaking again. The complexities of the conspiracy they uncover are pushed aside and reduced a world where it apparently takes nothing more than a brief mention of a criminal mastermind’s (Alex Veadov) family for him to break down and spill his guts. Not sure where the secret tunnel system the terrorists are using is? Just ask that guy – he’ll know. It’s a cartoonishly simple race to the next overwhelming cliché that someone, somewhere down the line, mistook for pathos. Yes, the US Navy SEALs are impressive and yes, they deserve a great film dedicated to their bravery, but this is not it.