#REVIEW: “THE OUTPOST”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
When I think of war movies, I think of Apocalypse Now. Saving Private Ryan. Full Metal Jacket. The Hurt Locker. I think of the films that transcended the genre. The Films that gave us a taste of the horror of war, and what it was like to be “in the shit”. Each one has made a lasting impact on the medium and has inspired countless Films and Filmmakers in their wake. It is hard to replicate all-timers like these, and even more challenging to create something new.
That is the mindset I had going into Director Rod Lurie’s The Outpost. The Film, based on a true story, chronicles the battle between American forces and the Taliban at the remote Combat Outpost Keating, located deep within the mountains of Afghanistan. The battle was one of the bloodiest and one of the most awarded battles in the entirety of the Afghan War.
For the first hour or so, The Outpost is mundane and ordinary. It episodically introduces the characters and situations they find themselves in, and gives us a sense of how dangerous day-to-day life is for these soldiers – including one minor twist I should have better seen coming. There are gunfights, a whole lot of yelling and cursing, and some not-so subtle xenophobia. For the most part, Lurie’s film initially checks-off all the boxes for any number of war films that have come before or in the wake of 9/11 and does very little to distinguish itself. We understand the characters’ struggles and constantly hear their names, but it is still a bit difficult to keep track of who is who outside of Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones’ characters. Even then, their arcs are not as precise as they could be.
But after that first hour, Lurie turns the dial, jumps head on into the Battle of Kamdesh and lets all hell break loose. What felt like a film going through the motions becomes an intense and relentless battle for survival. Lurie jumps between shooting styles throughout this second half (graciously cribbing along the way), but always zeroes in on what will put the camera in the middle of the action. He likes to show all the carnage unfolding but has a habit of zooming into the soldiers’ tired and frightened faces, really exposing their feelings in a way that dialogue never could. The gritty style he employs is terrific and just as suitably visceral as it sounds. It is only bested by the claustrophobic moments some of these characters spend in broken down vehicles, where they carefully balance the odds of praying for extraction or running away in hopes of escaping a hail of bullets and rockets. The entire cast handles all of these scenes increasingly well, and do a great job making the Film feel as hauntingly realistic as it needs to be (and underplay gracefully the more patriotic elements subtly buried throughout).
The Outpost is a gritty war film that does an exceptional job depicting a horrific battle. The first half is a bit too ordinary and the characters are not as well-drawn as I had hoped, but Lurie’s second half battle sequence expertly ratchets up the action and intensity to such a degree that all of its shortcomings become forgotten in its wake. This is easily one of 2020’s better films.
VVS Films release THE OUTPOST on Digital and On-Demand on Tuesday, July 21, 2020.