FILM REVIEW: Act of Valour (15)

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In 1962, in response to escalating hostilities between North and South Vietnam, allies of Russia and America respectively, President John F Kennedy authorised the creation of the Navy SEALs.

This elite maritime military force proved vital, venturing behind enemy lines in Vietnam to sabotage supplies and destroy ammunition caches.

More recently, the SEALs carried out the covert mission in Pakistan, which culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden.

Every year, 1,000 sailors begin the most mentally and physically demanding training in the military to be considered for the unit.

Only a quarter of recruits complete the 30-month course, covering all aspects of unconventional warfare, before their first deployment.

Directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh honour the SEALs with Act Of Valour, a fictionalised account of real-life operations starring active servicemen and women.

Fantasy and reality collide head-on: combat sequences are festooned with the latest battlefield technology and the film takes to the air with pilots and aviators and dives inside a state-of-the-art submarine.

The veracity of McCoy and Waugh’s film sadly doesn’t extend to the narrative or dialogue.

Characters are thinly sketched and it seems highly unlikely that a senior officer would tell his men that a terrorist “pulled a Roman Polanski on my ass and disappeared”.

While the real-life SEALs bring power and intensity to fight sequences, most don’t know how to deliver a line with conviction.

It doesn’t help that a florid and occasionally jingoistic voiceover incites giggles as it ponders the majesty of the brave officers: “Although a single twig will break, a bundle of twigs is strong.”

Profound.

Following the assassination of the US ambassador to Manila, CIA agents Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) and Walter Ross (Nestor Serrano) investigate a drug smuggler nicknamed Christo (Alex Veadov) and his links to the bomber, Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle).

The agents are ambushed - Ross is killed and Morales is spirited away to the jungle where she is tortured for information.

An elite team of Navy SEALs under the command of Senior Chief Van O is scrambled aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard to extract the stricken agent.

The seven-strong unit including Lieutenant Commander Rorke and Special Warfare Operator Chef Dave infiltrate the enemy compound, unaware of the level of resistance that awaits them.

Act Of Valour is energised by McCoy and Waugh’s hyperkinetic direction, which often switches to the point of view of the SEALs as they carry out their mission and uncover an impending attack on home soil that will “make 9/11 look like a walk in the park”.

There are neat flourishes - the camera whirling as agent Morales’s body is rolled up in a carpet - that quicken our pulse.

Unfortunately, snazzy visuals cannot compensate entirely for deficiencies in the script or the wooden performances.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: March 23 (UK & Ireland), 109 mins