Act of Valor certainly has an attention-grabbing premise—it's a fictional war movie, but it stars real Navy SEALs, was shot using live ammo, and says it is based on true events. But critics aren't exactly lining up to salute. Here's what they're saying:
- "The film began as a recruitment video for the Navy and more or less wound up that way," writes Kyle Smith of the New York Post. "I'm not going to say Act of Valor oversimplifies manly bravado, but Sylvester Stallone just called to say there's more to war than square-jawed warriors shooting villains in the teeth."
- "The villains come across as individuals rather more compellingly than do the film's ostensible heroes," writes Nick Pinkerton of the Village Voice. The SEALs don't get any individual characterization, and their dialogue "has, one suspects, the same relation to the real thing as the network-television mic'd talk of football players does to an actual, unobserved huddle."
- Roger Ebert couldn't help comparing the movie to the documentary Hell and Back, which features real combat scenes, and focuses on a soldier actually wounded in Afghanistan. "If you asked Sgt. Nathan Harris what he thought about using live ammo in a Hollywood movie … my best guess is, he would say they were damned fools."
- But Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe liked it. Sure the acting is wooden—"When these men speak, you suddenly realize how uniquely good those Ents were in Lord of the Rings"—but the action is thrilling, and, thanks to the grace of the SEALs, "there is beauty in this movie that you’d never experience in any film starring Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff."