Originating as a short recruitment documentary for the US Navy SEALs, flag-waving action drama Act of Valor is a blatant work of propaganda; a movie so hawkish and gung-ho that it makes John Wayne’s The Green Berets look unpatriotic and Top Gun seem positively pinko. Yet former stunt men turned directors Scott Waugh and Mouse McCoy would have us believe in their film’s authenticity: the leading actors are active-duty Navy SEALs and much of the ammunition flying around is real. The story wrapped around the heroes’ exploits, however, is harder to swallow.
A Navy SEALs team rescues a kidnapped CIA agent in Central America and then discovers that a Chechen terrorist is plotting to smuggle a troop of jihadist suicide bombers into the US from Mexico. These are real perils facing the US, the film suggests, and only the diligence and courage of its warriors keeps the country safe. The SEALs are the watchmen ‘standing guard while the world sleeps’. There are no shades of grey, here, no friendly fire incidents, no collateral damage, no post-combat trauma, and certainly no soldiers going berserk and slaying civilians.
Not that the film’s action sequences aren’t exciting. The mission to free the captured agent is a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping sequence, with the SEALs racing to their river rendezvous pursued by scores of heavily armed gunmen while two US boats speed to the rescue. The moment when the boats open up their covering fire is awesome; a stunning display of US military might. And showing off America’s armed prowess and the self-sacrificing nobility of its warriors is what the film is all about. Never mind that the SEALs can’t act and that the dialogue put in their mouths is leaden; these valiant defenders of freedom have the right stuff.
On general release from Friday 23rd March.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.