"Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?
Where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need."
Remember the hero that Bonnie Tyler was looking for? All she has to do is go to the movies this weekend to find a bunch of them--and although she wasn't talking about them fighting terrorism, I think she would be fine with the compromise. Act of Valor boasts active-duty Navy SEALs, not to mention countless other enlisted men and women, to show audiences how our defense budget is being used through an interpretation of real-life missions. Is it a two-hour-long recruitment video? It feels like it. Is it effective? Absolutely.
Yes, it's painful to listen to these guys spout dialogue about anything other than combat. Let's just get that out of the way. It's awkward to hear their strange voiceover quoting poems by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh or talk to their wives about their haircuts. But luckily, there aren't enough of those moments in this movie to make it a Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Jihad Edition. There are a few actors in the film, and they do most of the (metaphorical) heavy lifting to drive the plot about evil terrorists stopping at nothing to bring down our great nation. They are appropriately cartoony and seem to fire weapons well, so they earned their paycheck.
If Act of Valor starred another bunch of Hollywood actors pretending to play war, it would only be a series of fun and interesting explosions shot with a nimble Canon 5D digital camera. Since it stars the real deal, it has context, and that's its real strength. For all the fumbling it does during the non-military scenes, nothing gets lost in translation when these people show us what they do at their day job. Every mission is more exciting than the last, all building up to the capture of terrorists this close to entering America and taking us down. This is probably really happening somewhere in the world while you read this, and those very same men and women are fighting against it. It made me feel grateful in an entirely different way from other war pictures because it gives military defense a face.
It feels like a first person shooter game, summer blockbuster, and documentary all in one. And I swear it left the taste of apple pie in my mouth.