The Los Angeles Times explains what happened.
As Hollywood’s A-listers prepare for the Academy Awards on Sunday, it was the Navy SEAL stars of the movie “Act of Valor” who dominated the box office.
The intense action movie opened to a solid $24.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity Media, proving by far the most popular choice for audiences.
“Good Deeds,” the latest movie from writer/director Tyler Perry, opened to $16 million. It’s the second-smallest opening ever for the prolific filmmaker and actor, ahead of only 2007’s “Daddy’s Little Girls.”
“Wanderlust,” a new Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and the thriller “Gone” starring Amanda Seyfried were both flops, opening to just $6.6 million and $5 million, respectively.
[…]”Act of Valor,” which has won plaudits for its ultra-realistic action sequences that feature the SEAL stars in training exercises, was a big bet for Relativity. The financially struggling independent studio topped other bidders by paying $13.5 million for rights to the movie produced by production company Bandito Brothers. It also committed tens of millions of dollars to an extensive marketing campaign that included four ads in and around the Super Bowl and online material targeting video game players.
But the investment appears to be paying off, as box-office receipts came in at the high end of pre-release expectations. Just as important, audiences loved the film, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That was not only true for men, who made up 71% of the audiences, but women.
Here’s the “making of” clip showing how they made it:
Not only were the SEALs in this movie, they helped direct the action sequences!
Here’s a review from the liberal Boston Globe.
The casting in “Act of Valor,’’ of course, leads to the movie’s innovations. Dialogue that chiefly entails laying out tactics for missions executed in the next scene pretty much obviates any need for Kenneth Branagh. Having the military play itself is propaganda on one hand, and simple efficiency on the other. It also concentrates the movie-going public’s attraction to combat as spectacle. So why bother with a star if what we’ve come to see, ultimately, are the talents of the stunt crew?
As it happens, “Act of Valor’’ was directed by Mike “Mouse’’ McCoy and Scott Waugh, a couple of veteran stuntmen, who don’t simply admire the SEALs’ defiance of death. They appear to relate to it. Written by Kurt Johnstad, who’s a credited writer of “300,’’ the film involves a typical doomsday plot that manages to combine separate international affronts. A SEAL platoon heads into the tropics to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) who’s been tracking the connection between a Ukrainian drug smuggler (Alex Veadov) and a mass-murdering Chechen jihadist (Jason Cottle), whose bond is tighter than initially suspected.
[…]Accordingly, there is beauty in this movie that you’d never experience in any film starring Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff. The sound mix keeps suspenseful quiet, while you marvel at what perfect amphibians the SEALs are and how, with them, killing people places a crucial premium on gentleness (the SEALs tiptoeing down a hallway, stirring the air with hand signals, tapping a shoulder, or falling through the night sky). If only the frantic editing had managed to linger longer on the dreaminess of those shots.
[…]Really, the film’s presiding spirit of American might and international intimidation is that of Tom Clancy. He’s credited as an advisor on this film, and his influence shows up from time to time. A scene between a SEAL and the smuggler is among the best in the movie. The two men trade insinuations, and the tension is strong. Veadov is a better actor than the SEAL. But this SEAL, with his graying beard and wry sense of humor, has better lines. A sharply done encounter like that implies just what Clancy may have advised.
The SEALs’ profile is higher since a team killed Osama Bin Laden last year. There hasn’t been this much popular interest since Demi Moore fought to join a similar outfit in “G.I. Jane.’’ “Act of Valor’’ creates an illusion of authenticity while doing strategically little to dispel the group’s mystique. Often with an action film, you know that what you’re watching has been staged. You applaud the rigorous theater. Here, when the film’s climactic sequence has ended, there’s no impulse to clap. The verisimilitude holds you in moral check.
Please go see this movie in the theater! We have to send Hollywood a message.