Nestor Serrano, shown, is an actor, but many of the participants in "Act of Valor" are real Navy SEALs.
Setting out to be the real deal of Navy SEAL movies, "Act of Valor" goes beyond the likes of Charlie Sheen and Demi Moore with a blend of reality and fiction played out by a cast of actors and actual active-duty recruits.
But the well-intentioned stab at manufactured authenticity yields a mixed bag of results.
Although the film has its undeniably immersive, convincing moments, the merging of dramatic re-creations and on-camera “performances” proves less seamlessly executed than those masterfully coordinated land, sea and air missions.
That said, with its arrival as SEAL heroism is riding high, the Relativity release could make a serious splash with a relatively clear opening-weekend shot at targeted young-male audiences.
It also could be edited into one heck of a recruitment video.
Directed by Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh, former stuntmen with extensive action-sports credits, "Valor" does a sufficiently valiant job holding the fort until Kathryn Bigelow’s untitled bin Laden thriller lands in theaters in December. The film comes closer in tone to Bigelow’s "The Hurt Locker" than to "G.I. Jane" as it follows a team of SEALs initially deployed to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) in Costa Rica.
But their mission widens considerably in international scope upon uncovering a terrorism plot involving suicide bombers wearing vests filled with hundreds of ceramic ball bearings containing explosive gel.
Taking its cue from real-life SEAL operations, the script, penned by Kurt Johnstad ("300"), layers in more traditional dramatic elements depicting relationships among the men and with their families back home.
While the Intel-infused re-enactments pack a propulsive punch, the other interactions -- requiring those individuals to essentially play themselves -- tend to be more stiffly executed.
One notable exception is an energetic interrogation sequence between ranking SEAL Senior Chief Van O, a man with a bushy gray beard and wildly intense eyes, and a cool customer of a terrorist mastermind (actor Alex Veadov).
Visually, cinematographer Shane Hurlbut ("Terminator Salvation") lends the bumpy picture a unifying visceral grit, and editors Waugh and Michael Tronick ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith") keep the combat adrenaline pumping.