By James Gilmore
Act of Valor is a ballad of the unsung heroic deeds of Navy SEALs in clandestine operations.
Although neatly structured the film feels less like a coherent story than a series of military reenactments with a few specks of story spliced in between action sequences. Valor is generously laden with fan service for military aficionados, but at times the ultra realistic use of military jargon crosses the line from necessity to extraneous masturbation. Action sequences deliver impressive intensity and speed while skillful POV camerawork immerses the audience inside each mission, lending a sort of video game feel to the advancement of the plot.
The acting is as wooden as it gets and not just in terms of line delivery—no surprise, considering the principal characters are played by real Navy SEALs and not professional actors. Unfortunately this means that emotional tangibility with the main characters is difficult to establish, even with the repeated use of artificial filmic constructs employed to build personal empathy.
Actor Jason Cottle’s uncanny intensity makes his performance stand out among the cast.
If Act of Valor teaches us anything, it’s that “actual” does not equal “dramatic.” For a stellar example of how dramatizing reality improves its filmic qualities, see Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden. In spite of its painful dialogue and feeble plot, Act of Valor is a realistic, tense experience that military and action enthusiasts will love.
Rating: 3 / 5
By James Gilmore
Ben Affleck’s Argo takes a clumsy script and transforms it into a seat-riveting filmic experience. He and his skillful editors successfully impress artificial tension upon the audience in spite of the script’s many shortcomings. Script problems magnify when translated to the big screen, and such issues become very evident as characters reveal their lives to each other in standalone cutaway scenes that serve no plot purpose. Affleck’s protagonist character, Tony Mendez, is poorly written, making him too weak and impotent in comparison to his fellow cast members.
The audience will feel a sudden jolt as they are thrust into and out of a tongue-in-cheek Hollywood sequence that is not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film, and ultimately comes across as a series of inside jokes among Hollywood types more than a cohesive story segment. The final confrontation between protagonists and antagonists proves to be the most artificial construct of all, where editing alone creates the tension, not the clash of goal and obstacle, desire and counter-desire.
In short, Ben Affleck should quit acting and direct full-time, but he needs to learn to push the script to a final polish before jumping into making the film itself. With such spectacular directing talent it is a waste to not use equally judicious judgment in finishing the screenplay, as is evident in both Argo and his feature film directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. Still, audiences eagerly await his next work.
Rating: 3.5 / 5