The men who serve in the Navy SEALs are true American heroes. The same as the firefighters who ran into the burning towers on 9/11 or dedicated inner city schoolteacher who spend their own salary on materials for the kids. SEALs train for years and risk their lives to become the tip of America's spear. Have no mistake, we want them on that wall. It's certainly no deficiency of theirs that none of that rigorous training is focused on cinematic acting. As such it seems wrong to criticize their performance in a motion picture. I've seen better, but I've also seen far worse actors onscreen than the ruggedly handsome men of Act of Valor who perfectly channel the blank emoting skills of Keanu Reeves.
Anything negative to follow is squarely directed at the rest the folks involved in Act of Valor who decided that the way to give their straight to video script a marketing boost was cast active duty military members. Not to mention the decision open with a five minute explanation where the directors speak straight to the camera to set the expectation that if you don't love the film then you clearly hate America. Seriously. Though I could be paraphrasing. On the plus side the picture has at least one standout action sequence and a persistent yet implicit message that Bill Murray may be the America's secret weapon in the war on terror. So it ain't all bad.
Act of Valor would just be a stock action film with strong technical production and a single stand-out sequence if it wasn't for the halo effect of true soldiers being cast in the key roles. In the end these soldiers are a reason to make a donation to a worthy veterans group, not a reason to see this movie. Certainly stronger than that SEALs film with Charlie Sheen it's unlikely to persist in most viewers memory much beyond screening it. Except perhaps in the eyes of potential recruits, which is what I'd imagine the military is betting on with their significant investment in the production. Make your own choice about heading out to see Act of Valor, just please make an informed one. That's what American freedom is all about.
The full review with more details on why I felt the way I did, along with some questionable theories about the film can be read over at Three Imaginary Girls.
The NY Times has an interesting story about the film and the use of active duty military members as key parts of the production.