I watched Act of Valor and Special Forces recently and reviewed them both (here and here). While I liked them both, I have a clear preference for Special Forces. I will remember it much longer and will certainly watch it again. Both movies have flaws but the sources of those flaws are very different. I thought it would be interesting to look into the details and analyse why I liked one movie so much more.
The French movie Forces Spéciales and the US movie Act of Valor are strikingly similar. Both show the special forces of the respective countries in action, displaying the amazing gear and weapons and showing some of the tactics. While the rescue mission takes the whole 2hrs of Force Spéciales, in Act of Valor it is over after the first third of the movie and the story adds other missions. The most striking difference however is the fact that Special Forces uses famous actors while the Act of Valor cast consists mainly of real Navy Seals.
While both movies have been supported by their respective military and the gear and weapons displayed make them look authentic, the fact that the cast of Act of Valor are real Navy Seals makes it more realistic. Additionally all the missions which are said to be based on real missions came across as more realistic. After the journalist has been freed in Special Forces, the movie starts to incorporate a few elements which are a bit questionable and some reviews I read criticized them a lot.
Special Forces tells one chronological story. A journalist has to be freed and after that has been achieved, the group must flee which takes up 2/3 of the movie. In Act of Valor, different missions are shown which are interlinked. The story telling is rather episodic with each part having its own climax.
I’m a sucker for film music that’s why I paid special attention. The music in Act of Valor is supporting and quite discreet while in Special Forces it’s dramatic, very present and influenced by a lot of very familiar scores. It’s, to be completely honest, a tad corny.
Decent in Act of Valor and absolutely stunning in Special Forces.
Actors and Characters
The cast of Special Forces is the big strength of the movie. The cast and the characters. Most of them are famous and play likable characters. It’s easy to care for them and we are not indifferent to their fate. Some of the scenes are particularly dramatic and emotional because the one or the of the likable characters is wounded or dies.
The characters in Act of Valor however are flat. I couldn’t tell them apart and since the dialogue was so wooden, I didn’t care for them at all. The movie emphasizes the missions, emotions are not so important.
While Act of Valor may be entertaining and exciting, it left me ultimately cold. I wasn’t moved while I had quite strong emotions when watching Special Forces.
It was interesting to see how important it is for me to care for characters and their fate. If a movie leaves me completely cold emotionally, I simply don’t like it that much and am bound to forget it very easily. As I said, both movies have flaws, in Act of Valor it’s the actors and the characters, in Special Forces some elements are not realistic. Overall I can forgive (minor) unrealistic elements when the characters are believable and the story triggers an emotional response.
Has anyone seen both movies? Which one did you prefer?