Movie review: Act of Valor

Feb 24, 2012 at 7:42 a.m. ET

There have been plenty of films made about Navy SEALs, but arguably none more authentic than Act of Valor. The U.S. Navy SEALs help take the action movie experience to another level.

Act of Valor Navy Seals in Air

Act of Valor is a unique movie-going experience: Real-life U.S. Navy SEALs did more than star in the film -- they helped plan and execute the action sequences, shot live ammunition during filming and were even granted access to actual Naval aircraft. Wow!

To be clear, this is neither a documentary nor a true story. It is a fictional tale about an invented CIA agent who gets kidnapped; the SEALs are sent to rescue her, soon revealing a larger, more disturbing plot. Film and TV actress Roselyn Sanchez, perhaps known best for her work on TV's Without a Trace, plays Agent Morales with crisp sincerity and fearless commitment. The movie has a lot of graphic violence -- and plenty of it against women -- so if watching Sanchez get screws power-drilled through her delicate hands makes you squeamish, I suggest you go see Wanderlust instead.

But the real horror comes in the scene where an Eastern European "factory" makes suicide bomber vests with explosive-filled porcelain pellets, meant to easily pass through metal detectors. I have little doubt that somewhere in the world a room exists where suicide vests are being constructed -- this film doesn't reinvent terror, it only reminds us of the possible evil that exists in one or more malevolent minds. The real U.S. Navy SEALs face this every day. It is troubling. It is humbling.

Act of Valor has some very exciting visuals, particularly the scene where the men parachute out of a Black Hawk helicopter. Often using up to 12 cameras at a time, the action scenes get your blood pumping and jar your senses awake. Watching the SEALs work reveals the subtle, coordinated movements that are like a choreographed dance and provides one of the best arguments for using real SEALs instead of actors.

This movie is really a celebration of these brave men (women are currently not allowed to join) and an inspiration to those who love their freedom. Short on dialogue, heavy on action, Act of Valor provides an artistic glimpse of how the SEALs work and the sacrifices made by both the men and their families.

Bottom line:  If you've ever fantasized about being a U.S. Navy SEAL (or marrying one), you'll love this movie.

Photo credit: Relativity Media