Monday, February 27, 2012

Act of Valor [Movie Review]

I've always been a sucker for a good war movie.  I think being thrown into a world that is unfamiliar to me is one of the things I love about the movies, and little is more foreign to me than war.  

Now to me, the best war movies are the ones that successfully engross you in the day to day reality of a specific set of soldiers.  Saving Private Ryan for example, captured the epic scope of WWII by following a small group of soldiers throughout some of the biggest battles in recent history.  The Hurt Locker was a great example of the slow nerve-racking intensity of the Iraqi war.

Act of Valor attempts to capture the versatility of possibly the greatest fighting force in the entire world... the Navy SEALS.  The producers of this film worked with the Navy to create a fictitious story that weaves through multiple missions based on real Navy SEAL missions.  The idea is, everything that happens to the characters in this film, has happened to real Navy SEALS.

This leads to two things to point out about this film.
  1. The acting leaves much to be desired (although really isn't as bad you might think).
  2. It honestly feels like what you're watching is real.
The action scenes in this movie are absolutely phenomenal.  It's hard to explain how unique if feels than other action/war movies.  The way my wife described it afterwords is that "it just seemed so professional."  Once the mission began, there was no witty banter, no funny one-liners, and in general no characterization.  Most of the time, you didn't know who was who since all of the SEALS had on so much camo.  It was very plainly good guys vs bad guys.

Now normally that would be considered a bad thing, but the strategy involved in the missions themselves were so intriguing that taking the time to develop characters would simply be distracting.

The story itself left much to be desired.  The bad guys were pretty generic as was the overall plot line.  The first 15 to 20 minutes were pretty slow, and didn't really do much to go into depth of the characters.  I will say that, despite plenty of cheesy dialogue, I really found myself liking the two main characters a lot (although this probably has to do with their "good ole boys" accents than anything else").

Rating: 7/10

Overall this movie was fantastic, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes war movies.  It's definitely lacking it some areas, but as a way to experience what it's like to be a Navy SEAL you will not likely find anything better.

Beyond the Screen:  Another amazing thing about this movie, is it was primarily shot using a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR.  That's absolutely amazing that a camera designed for photojournalism could perform so well on the big screen.  

This also allowed for some crazy angles that wouldn't be possible with most modern filming equipment.  Now, I know 5D's have been used for specific shots in movies (Iron Man 2 comes to mind), but I think this is the first film to make it to theaters with a DSLR as it's primary camera.

Here's a behind the scenes video on how Act of Valor was created.

Also, if you are at all interested in creating films with DSLRs you should definitely check out Act of Valor cinematographer Shane Hurlbut's blog


Dan Litz said...

I liked the movie, I would probably agree with your 7/10.

I wouldn't say it was completely devoid of characterization, the end of the movie had me paying attention (the funeral).

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