Movie Reviews. From the Hip.


"What should we see this weekend?"

"Will that be any good?"

"What would DORIEN SAY?"

... Here's what DORIEN SEZ.

Welcome to the premiere movie reviewer that JUDGES FILMS BEFORE THEY COME OUT! Armed only with a few previews and a crack-shot snap judgment, I bring you the most succinct, accurate, and cocksure film reviews this side of the River Wild... which sucked!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ACT OF VALOR (Feb. 24th)

Man alive, I could never sit still through those awful pre-movie ads/operettas for the armed forces.  Something really chaffs me 'nethers about selling military enlistment to young people with images of high-tech adventure, community support, and stoic guardianship of peace in the world, all shot and cut by a poor man's Michael Bay and set to the passionate jams of Kid Rock.  But who knew those were only teasers for the full-length feature!  What began as a recruitment video for the U.S. Navy has become Act of Valor, a war movie starring real, active duty Navy SEALs.  Combining extensive footage of SEAL training exercises with dramatized action and "story" scenes, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh have created less a film than merely a bigger, more expensive, and potentially more effective recruitment ad.  This time, though, there's no Kid Rock to be found.  He was hard enough for the Army, but he's not SEAL material.

A. of Valor is being promoted as a new kind of movie experience, as the hands-on involvement of the SEALs ensures a level of detail and realism unprecedented in previous films of the genre.  While the story is as familiar as an old puke stain outside your bar (SEALs rescue a kidnapped CIA agent and thwart a terrorist plot), there is something neat about seeing the real guys pretend to do it.  You get all the bloodlust of a Commando or Rambo, but without some shirtless actor pretending to be a tough guy; these are the actual tough guys, and if mindless action is your goal, why not let them show you how it's done?  Beyond that novelty, however, it's business as usual: it's set in a fictional universe of black-and-white ethics, unambiguous moral lines, and an us-against-them viewpoint so cockeyed it makes Forest Whitaker look surprised.  It's not a movie that dwells on the morality of killing or the consequences of war, and it doesn't pretend to be.  For these filmmakers, it's simple: the world is dangerous, Americans must be protected, and terrorists need killing.  Glorification of war is an understatement.  This movie blows war and likes it.

The soldiers portrayed in Act of Valor are old-school patriots and family men who want only to do their duty, serve their country, and get home to their pregnant wives.  But as there is no "I" in SEAL, so are there no characters in this movie, only cliches and archetypes of the dullest variety.  (The brave one, the quiet one, and the quiet but humorous one.)  Nabbing the writer of 300 was a perfect move -- nobody has proven more adept at cobbling a shallow story around violent action scenes, or at reducing things like honor, courage, and brotherhood to hollow buzzwords.  Combining dope weapons technology with the adrenaline rush and sweet kills of Modern Warfare 3, the filmmakers' primary concern is to showcase America's military might, and to portray its foreign policy as necessary and justified.  The Navy is clearly banking on this film to boost enlistment and improve P.R.; plus, it never hurts to start the psychological training early.  Nothing dehumanizes warfare and desensitizes us to violence like an action movie, which is why the heavy use of "helmet-cam" was a touch of genius.  You're right there in the firefight, shooting-'em-up alongside a squadron of real-life heroes!  This might be the life for me!

The Navy SEALs are enjoying some well-earned clout, and it's only natural that a few movies will be made about them.  The shame is, had these men been included on this level in a film that actually asked questions about what it means to serve and to take life for country, it could have been something special.  But then, that could never have happened.  And now, after a ten-year occupation of Iraq and with the ongoing fighting in Afghanistan, it seems a tasteless time to perpetuate the myth of clean and uncomplicated war.  Films about the "war on terror" are notorious for being sub-par, or at least box office disappointments, but sir.  This is not the answer, sir.  I wonder what our poorly equipped and vulnerable troops will make of this depiction, or for that matter, veterans who have suffered severe psychological and physical injury.  Had it featured real-life Black Water security forces instead of U.S. servicemen, perhaps people would more readily recognize it for what it is: propaganda you must pay to see.  And if the movie's a hit, a Pandora's trunk of military-produced cinema may just be opened.  We could be subjected to a new era of recruiter-tainment: sleek, polished action from the Marines, gritty tales of valor from the Army, high-flying Air Force epics... even independent fare from the National Guard!  We musn't support these endeavors.  Shame on them.  I'm grateful to have never seen war first hand, but I'll wager it doesn't look like this.

Dorien Sez: F
Watch the Trailer:

No comments: