Posted by: steveonfilm | February 26, 2012

Recently Watched: Act of Valor

I had a chance to catch ‘Act of Valor’ this afternoon. Before I say anything else, I want to mention this is the beginning of the ‘tactical action’ genre in Hollywood.

I’ve written a little bit before about what ‘Act of Valor’ is, so I’m not going to rehash too much. But after sitting through the 111 minute film I can tell you it’s fun, but not great, with some serious pacing, acting, and story issues. However, I don’t think you’ll walk away from the film feeling like you didn’t get your monies worth. And the emotional impact of the ending was well done and felt far more substantial and satisfying than I expected.

What I want to talk about isn’t the movie as much as what I think it’s introducing to the traditional Hollywood action flick. We’ve all sat through movies that have soldiers, secret missions, guns, explosions, and complete carnage. Rarely do they feel… for lack of a better term, authentic. Case in point…

Look, I’m not taking anything away from the movie NAVY SEALS, but we ALL know that’s NOT how actual combat looks. Those guys aren’t even wearing equipment that looks halfway authentic. The movie is fun, it’s got everything we want in an action flick, but I don’t think anyone sits there after the credit roll and goes, “Wow, I bet it’s JUST like that in real life.”

With that clip fresh in your minds, I want to you watch the following. Compare how the two play out. Look at how the action is presented. How the visuals play out on the screen. How the terminology and vocabulary is spoken.

Until now, this type of presentation was only available if you were playing a video game such as Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Battlefield, or Modern Warfare. But after ‘Act of Valor,’ I think that’s all about to change.

The action in ‘Act of Valor’ is presented with a combination of first person footage (which is used on rare occasions, and I think quite effective) and third person footage. The mix of the two enables the audience to see bird’s eye and close up what’s going on. The film used both perspectives quite effectively to convey various levels of tension, and on more than one occasion I felt myself straining to be aware of the situation unfolding in front of me. Enemy targets (tangoes) could be anywhere, and half the fun of this film was watching how their locations would play out.

It wasn’t merely action I was watching, it was ‘tactical action.’ It brought a level or realism that few movies have come close to matching. While I was always aware that I was watching a work of fiction, there were many times where my suspension of disbelief was able to blissfully evaporate back just enough to let the moment and sink in. And I really appreciated that.

I’m looking forward to the coming films in the hands of more capable directors who provide a level of ‘tactical action’ even more fulfilling than what I witnessed this afternoon. There IS an audience for that type of movie. They are the same people who played all the games I mentioned above. They are the same people who buy Tom Clancy books en masse. They are the same people who’ve seen ‘Black Hawk Down‘ and ‘HEAT‘ a million times. And if you make a movie, even on a modest budget, they will show up and reward you for their efforts. You need only look at the box office performance of ‘Act of Valor’ this to see my point is valid.

Over the top action will ALWAYS have it’s place in film. There is ALWAYS room for a ‘Die Hard‘, ‘Beverly Hills Cop‘, ‘Bad Boys‘, ‘The Expendables‘, and ‘Lethal Weapon.’ But that’s not the only way to present action. And I think ‘Act of Valor’ was able to show that to everyone this weekend.

Long like the ‘tactical action’ genre.

Keep writing,


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