To execute this film, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh employed active duty Navy SEALs, incorporated real battle strategies, live rounds, and utilized current technology and weaponry in use today. Although the plot itself is not a reenactment of real events, writer Kurt Johnstad fabricated the plot from five true stories from the Navy SEALs.
Act of Valor begins in the Philippines with a disturbing scene, highlighting the brutally heartless tactics of modern terrorists. A suicide bomber infiltrates a school with an ice cream truck, as the children end their school day. The U.S. ambassador has arrived to pick up his son. As they go to buy some ice cream, the truck explodes, slaughtering dozens of children, the ambassador and his son, and a security guard.
Soon after, we shift to South America. A CIA operative is captured by the target she has been tracking, a man called Christo. Afterwards, a particular SEAL team is called to rescue her as she is being tortured into releasing every bit of intel her captors could use. Team leader and soon-to-be father, Lieutenant Rorke prepares his team for the mission, as they spend their final night before deployment relaxing on the beach with their families and friends.
The following night, the seven-man team HALO jumps into the jungle just outside the enemy camp. At dawn, the team swiftly and stealthily mobilizes, giving a true understanding of military precision as enemy targets (sometimes called squares, stemming from some modern weapons placing a square over targets) are detected, communicated, and eliminated one by one in seconds. Additionally, two small unit riverine craft are dropped down-river, heading towards the camp for pick up and extra support. With a sniper and spotter and intel from a UAV for protection and warning, the remaining five men move inbound to successfully rescue the CIA operative without her releasing any information, although has been viciously tortured. During the raid, an enemy cell phone is recovered as well. Unfortunately, one SEAL is severely injured after being shot in the eye as he rounded a corner; and enemy backup is on the way. The team is forced to drive away in an enemy truck and struggles to escape as enemy support trails behind them. As a result, the team must abandon their initial and secondary plans. The third plan is a difficult success and provides one of the best scenes in the film, as the riverine crafts rain countless rounds into the enemy trucks (and all live fire, no blanks).
After exploring the contents of the retrieved cell phone, a global terrorist plot is uncovered involving Christo and another target, known as Shabal. Christo’s plans are revealed to the viewer as Christo convenes with Shabal in the Ukraine. The two are organizing an attack on multiple major cities in the United States using non-metallic suicide bombing vests, making them undetectable and easily hidden under clothing, when detonated these vests produce a large explosion and ceramic balls blasting outward as if from a very large fragmentation grenade. Christo ends with stating that he must go into hiding, since he assumes the CIA knows of him, which greatly upsets Shabal.
With the military’s new intel, the SEAL team is deployed to Somalia for reconnaissance, confirming Christo and Shabal’s plot. This information leads them to an island off Calif, where several vests are obtained. Afterwards, Christo is discovered and captured on a yacht in the Pacific. He is interrogated and reveals that not all vests were captured on the island. He then informs the officer that several more vests and Shabal are already positioned to enter the United States from Mexico. As the plot goes on, a plan unfolds from the intel that they recover and the Navy Seals must endure a fight for their lives, from which few will survive.
So to conclude this review, I suggest seeing the film. Act of Valor is by far the closest film to real Navy SEAL combat. I have heard people criticize the acting, but one must remember that these men have lived and performed the scenes multiple times in training and under real combat pressure. The best comparison we can make comes from video games and movies with actors and directors who have never lived it. I will believe these men over any actor, any day. However, I can admit the acting in non-military scenes was lacking for the SEALs. Also, finding a cell phone to uncover enemy plans was a little too cheesy. There is only one, short reconnaissance scene in the movie. A second, longer recon mission could have been used to reveal more than just a cell phone cop-out and would have offered a lot of suspense. Lastly, I definitely wish they fixed the ending. Overall, go watch Act of Valor. There is plenty of raw action and suspense, and you cannot get much more realistic, unless you record the real thing.