There are a handful of truly elite warriors in this world; South Korea’s Rock Marines, Britain’s Special Air Service, and the French Foreign Legion to name a few. But when it comes to the best of the best, look no further than the U.S. Navy SEALs. We’re going to cover the explosive (literally) action film Act of Valor featuring active duty Navy SEALs. Yes that calling card was promoted time and again with this film. Did it help or hurt the movie’s delivery? Yes.
That’s a ‘yes’ to both options, but before we get to that, let’s discuss what exactly this movie is about. Set in modern days, there exists a certain religious extremist on the loose. The unknown threat is terrorist Abu Shabal played by Jason Cottle whose mission is to wreak unspeakable havoc on the U.S. populace. When a CIA informant spying on Shabal’s cohort gets captured, the SEALs spring into action and do what they do best. The action is intense and takes us around the globe through all three environments that make up the SEALs name; sea, air and land.
From clearing a room to sniping from afar, no actor could accurately portray just how bad ass and seamless these guys do their job. Their expertise is quite evident in these scenes. What’s also evident is that these guys are not actors. It comes across awkwardly and while I would like to give them a free pass in this area and score the movie a little higher, I still need to be fair. Quite often, it’s tough listening to the real SEALs deliver their lines as this prevents the movie from ever developing a consistent and stable flow.
Fellow WSB staffer Gerard Iribe sent me a text the other day regarding this movie saying, “Act of Valor had some brilliant action, but gets bogged down by the acting and over-emphasis of ‘America, f**k yeah’ sentimentality…” That is a perfect summation of the film. It’s part SEALs promo, part Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. There is definite entertainment to be had here, though I advise not expecting a deep experience.
There is somewhat of a mixed bag here of visual quality, but oh, who am I kidding? Overall it’s pretty damn incredible. Act of Valor is an hour and fifty minutes long. Ten of those minutes, give or take, feature less than spectacular clarity. That leaves the vast majority looking like reference-quality video, especially the opening sequence. For tech-heads, the disc features an AVC encode and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio with an obvious 1080p resolution. Colors are lush and realistic while the action is wickedly harnessed amidst the impressive specs.
Here’s the big winner on the disc, even more so than the video. The sound is provided through a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound experience. I want to ask myself what aspects I should start with bragging about how good this sounds, but it really doesn’t matter because they were all great. The dialogue was intelligble through the front channels. Background effects such as the subtle crunch of foliage beneath a soldier’s foot in the rear channels to the resonating pop of gunfire through all the speakers provide a wild romp for viewers. It’s a boots-to-asses experience that is proudly displayed here.
Whoever put these together knew what they were doing. They pretty much got the trifecta here. One, there’s a nice amount of content. Two, it’s quality content. Three, they’re all in HD. Well done. Who do I buy the first round for? Other exterior inclusions include a dvd (why?) and a digital copy (yes!).
- Deleted Scenes (9:23)
- Director’s Commentary
- Interviews with Active Duty Navy SEALs - My favorite on the list. Get a very personal round of dialogue from the SEALs in the movie regarding a range of subjects such as their real life experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, what it’s like to lose a fellow soldier in the field, going through SEAL training and getting the call for Act of Valor (30:27).
- Making of Act of Valor (5:26)
- Real Bullets – There weren’t a whole lot of blanks exiting the end of those gun barrels. This featurette talks about the extensive use of live fire throughout the filming of the movie (2:13).
- Silent Warriors – A discussion with the SEAL cast on what it was like to be in the movie (2:50).
- “For You” Music Video with Keith Urban (4:24)
- Making of “For You” Music Video (3:58)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:26)
- Sneak Peak – Other films coming soon (8:01).
Act of Valor is a popcorn flick, pure and simple. A modern day Saving Private Ryan this is not. The audio and video is awesome if nothing else (and are the saving graces here) while the film itself is mediocre at best. It possesses some great action sequences and an overview of the SEALs, their nifty high-tech tools and effective methods, but the unconvincing line delivery tends to kill it at times. Actions speak louder than words and this is one mantra the SEALs live by. In a movie, however, you need both, and for that, Act of Valor is a great Blu-ray for the eyes and ears, but not necessarily the mind.