Real Navy SEALs Star In 'Act Of Valor'

The new film Act of Valor blurs the line between the real and the unreal something fierce. The movie shot genuine SEAL training exercises, but the script couldn't be more generic.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Not long after it was revealed that Navy SEALs were responsible for killing Osama bin Laden last spring, an independent film was picked up for distribution. Unlike Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, who both played Navy SEALs, the movie "Actor of Valor" features real-life SEALs. The film opens this weekend, and Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Act of Valor" blurs the line between the real and the unreal something fierce. It uses active-duty Navy SEALs in a fictional story. But "Valor" is dramatically involving only when the shooting - with real bullets, actually - gets underway.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

TURAN: Those bullets are real because the film shot genuine SEAL training exercises. The script couldn't be more generic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ACT OF VALOR")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Lieutenant, it seems our governments have been very busy to make this possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: All the way from the top from, what I heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We do need to stay under the radar.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I understand completely, sir, but we are out of time. We need to move.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Tell me where, we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Our intel says they're using a tunnel network that is under a milk factory. Does this mean anything to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I know exactly where that is. It's not far from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Then that's where we're going.

TURAN: The SEALs get involved when a CIA agent is kidnapped by a drug dealer, who just happens to be an old friend of a ruthless and menacing terrorist. Soon enough, the SEALs are flying around the world, putting out fires and finally tussling with that terrifying terrorist who turns out to have a sizable contingent from Mexico's drug cartels on his side.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ACT OF VALOR")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Lieutenant, I'll take you anywhere you need to go. I'll prepare your men for a bigger fight than what you had imagined. You're not fighting eight men. You're also fighting the cartel that's protecting them.

TURAN: Members of the film's eight-man SEAL team - identified by first names only - exhibit impressive self-confidence at all times. They communicate in combat using nifty hand signals and keep spoken language to a laconic minimum. When someone says take it out, he is not referring to Chinese food. Impressive as all this is, it can't hide the fact that these total warriors can't really act. That doesn't matter in combat, but it is kind of a drawback in a motion picture. It's fascinating to note how "Act of Valor"'s real combat operations look like classic movie operations. Do these actual SEALs, who went to the movies before they went to war, feel like they're living in a 24/7 motion picture when they're in combat? The real and unreal play off each other like different facets of an optical illusion. Even Demi Moore and Bruce Willis never managed that.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.

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