Will you accept your “Call of Duty?”
Thinking it was some advertisement for the latest Modern Warfare game and mind you, I still haven’t played the last two Call of Duty games because my rig is in storage on the opposite coast, I decide to open the email. I was going to wallow in some self pity at the pathetic fact that it still may be a while before I play the last two installments because being a grown up with responsibilities and relaunching a website has taken up a huge chunk of my time.
Only the email doesn’t bring me sadness, but joy because what I got was not an ad but a reader’s review for Act Of Valor!
I’m personally psyched to see this movie because well, I’m kind of a black ops junkie hence why I have been giving the upcoming film a lot of love on the site lately.
Apparently there was some stealth screening here in NYC last week.
Our spy “Mr. Clean” (who we haven’t seen in a hot minute) was at that screening and here is what he had to say:
**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD**
Hey Latino Review folks. I’m a big “Apocalypse Now” and Laurence Fishburne fan, so I often go by the handle “Mr. Clean”. Let me start off by saying, I’ve been a fan of your site for quite some time and absolutely love revamp. Been awhile since I’ve seen an early fan review on there, so I figured I’d help you guys start 2012 off right with my thoughts on a movie coming out in just a few weeks, “Act of Valor”. I got an invite to attend an early screening of this on a rainy night a few days back with a small audience. In fact the theater was halfway full, but I guess the bad weather didn’t help. Didn’t really matter because the audience I saw this with, really got into this movie as did I.
I knew of “Act of Valor” as only “that Call of Duty movie”, even though it has nothing to do with that popular video game series. In fact, the film should be applauded for making no attempts to glorify war. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when a buddy of mine invited me to the screening and initially felt it was just more propaganda for the military disguised as an action movie. The movie opens with what felt like a two minute infomercial as the directors discuss on camera how they shot the film and why they chose active duty Navy SEALs as their lead actors. This induced eye rolling from me for a bit, especially when the movie actually begins with some narration from an unseen character speaking in a hideous monotone. All of my apprehension faded once we got into the actual plot.
The filmmakers initially throw the names of the various SEAL team members at us in a fashion using onscreen graphics that feels like a videogame. It’s tough to keep track of their names, but the story is centered on the two team leaders, one of which is about to have his first child. There’s a nice moment where the team spends their last night with their families at a beach barbecue before shipping out the next morning. Their mission is to rescue an undercover intelligence operative played by Rosalyn Sanchez whose cover has been blown and is being held captive at a compound in Latin America.
Sounds like a routine snatch and grab, but intelligence informs them they will encounter heavy resistance and might need back-up in go-fast boats along the river. I’ve heard a lot online about how “Act of Valor” used live fire rounds in its action sequences, but what truly impressed me wasn’t the firefights, but how each mission is planned and carried out. The fact that the leads have poor acting abilities didn’t affect my enjoyment. When they are preparing a mission, sharing opinions or executing a plan, their banter feels realistic and even establishes some good tension and suspense. Each mission is not only well choreographed with the filmmakers cameras, but we’re given a nice number of POV shots from the perspective of the soldiers as they look down the barrels of their rifles. When they finally do grab Sanchez’ character, gunfire naturally ensues, followed by an exciting car chase that leads to the river where the SEAL’s back-up are waiting to light their pursuers up.
After the boys complete their assignment, I thought the movie was basically going to be a series of unrelated missions. Truth be told, I would have been okay with that since the first one was shot and executed with great skill, but there is actually a connecting thread that runs through all of them. The reason Sanchez was kidnapped is because she was getting a little too close to the subject she was investigating, Cristo, a smuggler with terrorist ties. In the last few years, Cristo’s childhood friend Kabal has become a Muslim extremist, and the former has used his wealth to fund terrorist operations. Both men have now vanished, but when the SEAL team eventually catches up with Cristo, their Senior Chief gets some startling news. Kabal’s plan involves sneaking his followers into the U.S. wearing undetectable explosive ceramic vests and it’s happening as they speak.
With a running time of just over 90 minutes, one of the great things about “Act of Valor” is that it keeps moving. These guys don’t have time to discuss the past, their apprehension or personal hang-ups. They know they have a job to do and are ready for any new orders or surprises. In the barbecue scene on the beach, the team leader even says that is the place for them to air any dirty laundry, let go of any personal problems at home or difficulties they may be having with each other. Otherwise, when they are out in the field the team is not in sync, putting all of them at risk. This moment truly feels genuine, like a real discussion they probably have right before every mission. The leads may be surrounded by real actors like Sanchez and Nestor Serrano, who once played a terrorist on “24”, but they handle military jargon and discussions with realism and great ease. One of the few gripes I do have with the film is that opening narration I mentioned earlier. It gives away a little to much and spoils the outcome of the story for those smart enough to figure it out.
“Act of Valor” takes our heroes into several gunfights on enemy compounds, one even near the border of Mexico run by a drug cartel protecting Kabal and his group. Though the movie often gets into heavy action mode, I didn’t feel like the action sequences were there just as an excuse to blow stuff up. The villains feel a little cardboard, but their intentions are just as real as those in the real world out to incite terror and anarchy. Sure, the leads aren’t that strong in the acting department, but you identify with them and what they stand for. Nothing feels sensationalized, not even Senior Chief’s interrogation of Cristo aboard his yacht. Instead of revealing the true names of the SEALs involved, the end credits features the names of those killed since 9/11. I’m not gonna say “Act of Valor” was a haunting experience, but it did get me thinking about those guys who sacrificed everything for their country during my ride home. Yes, it’s an action movie, but one with the best intentions in that it contains a message within. I won’t tell you what it is, but rather than seek out your typical popcorn action movie, you should give “Act of Valor” a peep to discover what that message is for yourself.
Act Of Valor opens February 24th.