Published Thursday, 05 April 2012
Imagine a world of cinema without movie stars. No Meryl, no Liam and no Johnny. There are no celebrated names above the titles, no familiar faces on the poster and only ensemble dramas, which unfold with a totally anonymous cast.
This is not film fantasy but my strange cinema experience this week in watching Act of Valor.
Described as "a film like no other in Hollywood's history" and "an unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking". What this basically means is a high end recruitment video for the American military. But remarkably Act of Valor does not star celebrated actors on a secret mission to stop global terrorists but a troop of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs.
Yes, that's right. Real life soldiers playing fictional soldiers in a big-budget movie! Bizarre or what?
These unnamed GI Joes may be the most highly skilled military operatives in the world, (the very same Navy SEALs took out Osama Bin Laden last year) but the one key thing they are not trained in is elite acting.
Each line of the chunky dialogue is delivered with a clunk by these military hulks. This is an action film with only one mission possible - at all costs stay away from the acting. So, we are served up endless explosive sequences from Manila to Mexico, which sadly resemble video game play more than narrative storytelling. The constant use of the helmet-cam point of view engages us, not in any of the characters but only in the incessant shooting.
Directors Scott Waugh and Mouse McCoy (and no, he is not taking the Mickey!) have obviously been to the Tony Scott school of sunset cinematography. Every other frame of this dawning drama has helicopters, surfboards, speedboats and submarines emblazoned with sparkling twilight.
Before Act of Valor, I had the misfortune to sit through the bombastic trailer for the new action movie Battleship, which opens next week. This assault on the senses from the makers of Transformers (heaven's above!) features only fleeting glimpses of the actors involved and no mention of their names at all. Despite the fact that this movie frigate contains the feature film debut of the biggest pop star in the world - Rihanna.
In recent years, the most successful billion dollar movies have ditched movie stars in favour of unknown faces. Films like Avatar and Transformers have been sold on high tech spec and not movie star sheen.
What I have realised is that I prefer to watch movies with fine performances. I like to watch the great actors on the big screen. Without the stars, the cinema is darker and movies are not as magical.
So thank you Act of Valor for reminding us that acting is valuable, in fact, priceless.
Act Of Valor (Cert 15) is currently on general release.