To evaluate Act of Valor
in the usual cinematic context is to misunderstand certain rules of engagement, for this is less a movie than a brand advertisement for a US military that’s lately suffered a few dents to its reputational armour. Directors Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy use a standard-issue terrorism story, populated by a handful of professional actors, to show off the bravery, humanity and hyper-competence of a group of Navy SEALS played by real active-duty grunts. Given these ingredients, the jingoism is surprisingly muted, Waugh and McCoy more interested in serving up action set pieces that, while spectacular, become repetitive in their military jargon and heavy artillery. With its uncritical celebration of gung-ho warriors, Act of Valor
works better as an exercise in image rehabilitation than as a film.