“Act of valor” – shot on Canon EOS 5D Mark II – my review

by planetmitch14 Comments

I’m sure many of our planet5D readers have been to see the movie “Act of Valor” that I’ve been talking about over the past couple of years. This movie (just in case you haven’t read my posts about it yet) was shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (well about 75% of the final footage was 5D2) and in fact most if it was shot before the 5D2 even had 24 fps!

I’m eager to hear your reactions – and I’ll share mine below.

The LA Regal Live

I attended the showing that I’d been tweeting about incessantly the last couple of weeks with the movies Director of Photography Shane Hurlbut (see also this BTS post where I talk a bit about the dinner we had before the show).

The good news we heard at the end of the showing was that in the first 2 days of opening, Act of Valor was #1! And there was a big crowd waiting to see the next show once we finished with the panel discussion after the 5:10 showing.

'Act Of Valor' - One scene of family waving goodbye

'Act Of Valor' - One scene of family waving goodbye

My reactions

The movie looks amazing! Shane and his team have done an outstanding job of bringing some amazing visuals to the big screen and it is incredible what they’ve done with the look of the 5D2. You sure can’t tell which scenes are 5D2 and which are film.

The sound design is also amazing! We were in an excellent theater and the sounds of the battle scenes will just blow you out of the seat if you’re in a good theater. This was my friend Barry Andersson’s second time seeing the movie and he said the sound was so much better in this theater than the one where he first viewed the movie. There’s a scene about 30 minutes in (part of the water rescue sequence) where the seals start firing an amazing large machine gun and BAM! The sound just floors you.

I recently said in a planet5D poll that if the sound is bad, then I have a hard time sticking with the movie and there’s no problem with the sound design here!

It was fascinating to me to have a bit of behind the scenes knowledge going in because there were several scenes that I recognized from Shane’s blog coverage of the movie as well as some of the previews and other coverage we’ve brought you here on planet5D.

I will have to go back again tho – I’m sure the second or third viewing will bring more insights.

And because I knew some of the back story and that the actors were indeed Navy Seals, I believe I was a bit more forgiving of the acting than most of the critics have been (and I haven’t even read any, but I’ve heard they aren’t too fond of the movie). But I suspect that they’re so used to high caliber acting that if there’s a movie with just slightly inferior acting to those that they’ll be disappointed.

I wasn’t overly concerned about the acting. In fact I thought it was very good for untrained Navy Seals (I mean they’re trained as Seals and not actors). And even the Seal’s wives and families did a good job.

What I’m afraid I had a bit of trouble with initially was the story line. At the beginning I just wasn’t exactly clear about what was going on for the first 10 minutes or so. I eventually got caught up but I think that’s one of the weaker points of the movie. I’m eager to see it again to see if it was just me or if others have the same issue.

But what does set this off from the action movies of the past is the way the 5D2 is able to bring you into the action. Have a look at the panel discussion video below and you’ll hear some more about that.

As many of you have pointed out, the strength of this movie is the action and the point of view scenes – they really draw you in and make you feel like you’re more a part of the action.

Make sure you watch the video about the panel discussion after you’ve been to see the movie – I think it is better to just get your own reactions before you know some more of the BTS — and then go back afterwards to see the movie in a different light. Watch for some of the places where the 5D2 was able to be used so incredibly close to the action and think about how in all the other movies you’ve watched the action from afar.

The action scenes will draw you right into the emotion and terror of war.

It will give you new found appreciation for what our military are doing for each and every one of us. I walked away very proud of our country and our fighting spirit.

What’s your reaction?

If you went to see the movie, please give us your reaction – and if you have criticisms, be constructive without being mean please.

(cover photo credit: snap from the official trailer – one of the gut wrenching scenes)


  1. I’ll start with acting – agree with you on this. It wasn’t great but I knew that going in. To be honest, it was decent considering most characters in the movie are not trained actors.

    The sound was very good!

    The video was somewhat of a mixed bag for me. In a lot of places it was absolutely brilliant. In others my eyes were getting tired from either out of focus or really bouncy scenes. I could see how valuable it was to use a 5DMKII to get the close action where space was a limiting factor.

    Overall I thought it was well done. I really want to upgrade from my 50D to a 5DMKIII

  2. I’m really looking forward to watching it when it comes out over here in the UK, I really need to stop reading reviews and wait!

    Also, on another note, I really don’t like that bar that came up on the blog, it looks more like some kind of virus than a useful page of all 5DmkIII links.

  3. I thought the movie was very well done and quite a creative accomplishment given the limited resources in budget, schedule, cast, & crew. My congrats to the filmmakers and the films continued success at the box office. At the theater where I saw it (Harkins, Avondale, AZ) there was a very distracting edge color-tinge problem when the subjects moved. For instance, during medium shots when a body moved, there was a very strong outline of color along the subject’s edge, sometimes red, sometimes green or blue. Never seen that before on the big screen. Was so busy discussing the film afterwards that I forgot to track down the theater manager about it. I’m thinking it was some kind of projector calibration issue. Digital projection? Terrible to see the filmmaker’s hard work botched in this way. My only big complaint is the multiple soft focus shots. Maybe one of the challenges of working with 5D’s shallow focus? Easy to overlook during action scenes but took me out of the story especially during one dialogue sequence. Overall though, a very engaging, entertaining, and educational movie that renewed my appreciation for the sacrifice our troops make to keep us safe. The sobering list of fallen heroes at the end said it all. God bless and long live the Navy Seals!

  4. I thought overall that the movie was good – a perfect outing for my teenage son and I on a Saturday afternoon. That’s the first time I’ve gotten to see 5DMKII footage that large on a proper cinema screen – so that was pretty cool.

    The action sequences and the camera point of view were very good… I agree that the beginning was a bit jumbled, and that the acting was a little bit stiff in places – but, major props to those Navy Seals who were featured in the film.

    I noticed as well some of the short comings on the depth of field – those close quarter sequences were hard to keep in focus I guess…

    Overall, hat’s off to Bandito Brothers and Shane Hurlibut – they pulled off an entertaining and respectful movie about some incredible warriors… Overall, a fine product.

  5. I also had a hard time following the beginning and found myself feeling a bit disoriented and straining to pickup the story.

  6. The movie was ok as far as the action sequences go. I expected the acting to be terrible so I wasn’t shocked by that.

    What I was HUGELY disappointed by, though, is how the 1st AC must have been asleep half the time. The focusing was absolutely horrendous. Just terrible. Looking down the crew list, the people that were responsible for this part of the film weren’t new at it. How in the hell do you totally misfocus on critical (and locked down) shots like that. I was amazed. I’ve scoured the internet and am glad that I’m not the only one who saw it. It was painful.

  7. I liked the movie very much.. The acting by the Seals was mediocre.. But i expected that, and was very forgiving of it.. The action scenes on the other hand were some of the best I have ever seen.. I particularly liked the whole first major action sequence of the rescue of the female CIA agent…That sequence was so well done.. i actually felt like i was there with the Seal Team.. Awesome job !! This is where the Canon 5d really took the audience right to the edge of the action.. I did notice some of the focus issues at times.. probably the part where it bothered me the most was the interrogation scene in the Yacht. On the other hand there were many times during the film where I could not tell which camera was being used.. And that really surprised me.. Overall I really enjoyed this film, and think this is a watershed moment in the film industry.

  8. After reading all the articles about the movie on this website, I spent a while looking at the trailers and reading the reviews. And, wow! The film reviewers really seem to dislike this thing. Many of them point to bad acting, poor story development, and the belief that this is really just a feature-length recruitment film aimed at the “warrior class” of our society. I can’t say. I haven’t seen it.
    But, one way or the other, I think we have to be careful when issuing glowing reviews of feature films, just because a Canon 5D was involved. It could backfire on us.
    We’ve come so far with these cameras in a few short years, and witnessed some truly remarkable work. If the reviewers are correct – and I’m not saying they are – maybe we should be careful about tying our collective self-worth to one low budget, badly acted, poorly written war movie.

    1. Author

      well, maybe you should go see the movie if it is playing in your area. I did enjoy the movie… not sure my review was ‘glowing’ and I don’t think anyone is tying our self-worth to just this movie.

      By the way, it wasn’t “low budget” – tho maybe if you’re comparing it to a 200million dollar movie then yes, but $12 mill isn’t low budget to me.

  9. Mitch, please keep in mind that I was not offering a personal review of this movie. I was merely re-stating what most of the reviewers are saying, right or wrong. I offered full disclosure on this point. Whether or not I have actually seen the movie is entirely irrelevant in this context.

    I appreciate that $12 million isn’t low budget to you. But again, irrelevant. $12 million is, in fact, a very modest budget in terms of today’s Hollywood.

  10. You hit the nail on the head with the story problems. Jesus christ guys… You spent like 2 years in production on this movie. Make the story work! Also, it seemed (especially in the last scene) that tgey just didn’t get enough coverage and/or the scenes were just poorly edited. I have read Hurlbut’s blogs and know they were under the gun in shooting the action scenes (shooting whole sequences in only 3 hours or so) but man, it shows especially in the last action scene.

    Beyond that… There are some times in the film where the image looks terrible, but Hurlbut has been extremely open that making the film was a steep learning curve, you can tell the scenes when he was shooting with the shitty EF lenses, and it makes you appreciate the clarity when he is shooting with the Zeiss ZFs.

    Finally, and most importantly, when the image work, and it often does, Holy God is it a beautiful movie. The extended size of the FF35 sensor really does wonders, and the movie feels like it was shot anamorphically. The way those images pop, it feels like 3d. I had scene Like Crazy (7d and primo lenses) but i had no idea that this film would look so awesome. I am completely amazed, and a FF35 convert from this moment on.

  11. How much of the movie was actually shot on the 5d? It looked to me like mostly it was not.

  12. 75% of the finished product is 5d footage? 95% of the movie looked like film so that’s amazing.

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