A tight-knit team of US Navy Seals is sent in to rescue a CIA operative who is being held and tortured for information in Costa Rica. During the operation to recover her, they learn of a collaboration between Abu Shabal and Christo, who are working together to bring a new type of hard-to-detect and unusually deadly suicide vest into the US for a synchronised attack on major US cities. Can the Navy Seals stop the planned attacks?
All of the publicity for this not-as-jingoistic-as-you-might-fear advert for the US military focusses on its major selling point – real-life Navy Seals, authentic action sequences and detailed specifics on weapons and tactics. It is unquestionably true that the actors/soldiers deliver authenticity in the various gun battles that play out over the commendably tight running time, but the film suffers massively in other areas as a consequence.
The assorted assaults by the Navy Seals are compelling, thrilling and coherently shot. We get a great sense of the geography of their locations and who is doing what and why. Unfortunately, the acting bits in between are distractingly woeful. Though it is unreasonable to expect real-life soldiers to be adept actors, the film-makers have made a rod for their own backs by going for realism in the casting. We are unable to connect with or truly care about the characters, because their delivery of their lines is so stilted and accordingly distancing.
The narrative skips across the globe with a swiftness that many a recent bloated blockbuster could learn from, though the portrayal of global politics and in particular the absurdly one-dimensional depiction of the villains of the piece do the film no favours. It’s pretty much a case of “baddies are doing bad things, we must stop them”, without even a passing nod to realism in terms of a present day political context. In fairness, the film does avoid too much of the blinkered, “America – Yeah!!” into which it might have slipped, though this is still as blatant a recruitment and propaganda piece as Top Gun before it. It doesn’t hold back on the violence or gore and one assumes that the gunshot injuries are presented with the same measure of realism promised for the rest of the film. Those action sequences do thrill and engage and in a well-polished HD presentation it looks very impressive, there just isn’t enough of a film, or good enough acting in between the action beats to make us care in the long run.
Extras: An awful lot, though the quality is varied.
A series of two-minute featurettes are pretty repetitive and the five minute making-of covers very little new ground. There are some deleted scenes and a director’s commentary, though that simply bangs on and on about authenticity, realism and Navy SEALS credentials, when it would have been refreshing to hear some candour about the trade-offs that had to be made in other areas of the film in order for that realism to be achieved. More interesting are the interviews with the Navy SEALS who star in the film. Their initial descriptions of how they came to be part of their outfit and their respective backgrounds are interesting enough, but eventually they start to talk about regrets, the impact 9/11 had on them and suddenly a bit more depth comes to light.