Acts of Valour (15.)
Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh.
Starring Real Navy Seals, Alex Veadou, Roselyn Sanchez and Nestor Serrano. 110 mins
There was a time when, in the aftermath of Vietnam, soldiers were generally portrayed negatively in movies, as dehumanised killers. The nineties saw some softening of attitudes as filmmakers increasingly looked back to World War Two for its many examples of noble heroism by simple ordinary people.
The post 9/11 the attitude is that you can hate the war but not the soldiers fighting it: culturally, we are all embedded now. They are still dehumanised killers but they’re very organised and disciplined and brave and that overrides all objections.
Act of Valour stars Real-Life Navy Seals, using real-life ammo, in a made up adventure with actors. It starts with a rescue mission to save a mere actor, Roselyn Sanchez, who is playing an undercover CIA agent who has been captured by an evil South American drug dealer and builds towards a jihadist plot against America.
It’s propaganda alright – the War on Terror’s equivalent of John Wayne’s Green Berets - but ultimately flawed propaganda. The Navy Seals have as much charisma as English lock forwards and negotiate their dialogue like it was an awkward pitchside interview. They are trapped in a rather stilted recruitment video, while the baddies/ actors are living it up in a Bond film.
In one scene a Chechen jihadist visits his weapons maker in his factory and interrupts him while he is playing the violin. Another swarthy villain is captured on his luxury yacht, complete with bikini clad dolly birds. He may be a threat to national security but he lives like a Euromillions winner.
To the movie goer, accustomed to individual acts of improbable heroism, there is an inherent problem with a film that emphasises teamwork, preparation and superior fire power – every action scene looks like a turkey shoot. As a scardy-cat westerner hoping that someone is out there is protecting me, the lop-sidedness of the fights is reassuring; but as a movie goer it affronts my sense of fair play.
I don’t mind propaganda, but if you are going to tell me reassuring stories I’d like to be reassured at the end of them. Our heroes aren’t quite Full Metal Jackets but their just-cause-worth-dying-for credo gets to sound too much like the other side after a while. After some initial novelty the much vaunted action sequences aren’t all that different from those in most Hollywood films. Even the marines live in a Michael Bay world now.