Peter Bradshaw 

Act of Valour – review

The real-life Navy SEALs who star in this excruciating piece of propaganda needn't give up the day job, writes Peter Bradshaw
  
  

The gimmick behind this excruciating propagandist movie about the US special forces' war on terror is that it features not actors but actual Navy Seals. Those cubic-headed, robot-voiced guys are the real deal. I advise them not to give up their ultra-dangerous day jobs. If their combat talents are on the same level as their acting ability, it's a miracle that America didn't long ago get turned into a gigantic Commie-Caliphate from sea to shining sea. The film itself is bizarre: part-recruitment video, part first-person shooter videogame; its concept of international terrorism is a quaint fantasy, and the final heroic act of self-sacrifice looks like something from a schoolboy's second world war action comic. First we get a setpiece action sequence in which the guys rescue a sexy CIA babe from a jungly terrorist lair. Then we discover that a Ukrainian arms dealer has a plan to supply a Chechen Muslim extremist with the materials to make dozens of suicide-bomb waistcoats that won't show up on the security screens used by US immigration. There is a very gentle interrogation scene – Jack Bauer would be ashamed of these guys – and the film is squeamish about anything that might resemble plausible racial profiling, so it makes the suicide-bomber mules Filipinos (huh?). The Ukrainian bad guy is a bit of a cultured Bond villain, incidentally. He whiles away the time in his armament factory by playing the violin. "Mendelssohn?" asks the Chechen. "No, Brahms," he replies, with dignity. Not that the Navy SEALs are without culture: one is a fan of writers like "Churchill and Faulkner". Yet weirdly, the Ukrainian baddie is glimpsed reading Churchill's My Early Life, so maybe he's supposed to have a good side after all. The final showdown takes place in Mexico, with plenty of firepower from the cartels – the final hilarious twist in this extravaganza of pure nonsense. In the 1980s, Top Gun reportedly sent young men rushing to join the military; this hilariously bad film is going to get them clamouring to join the Jon Stewart Appreciation Society.