Review: 'The Outpost' (2020) Dir. Rod Lurie
Denied a theater release due to COVID-19, this factual war film comes to VOD for a powerful, accurate look at modern warfare...
Captain Benjamin D. Keating (Bloom) oversees a unit of U.S soldiers serving at Outpost Keating in Afghanistan during the 2009 war, with Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha (Eastwood) and his unit also soon based there.
Located deep in the valley of three mountains, the soldiers must rely on the support of local Afghans knowledge and their own patrols if they have any chance of standing against the might of Taliban forces.
Forging an unbreakable bond of brotherhood in less than acceptable circumstances and surroundings, what follows is The Battle of Kamdesh; the bloodiest of all battles during the Afghan War...
Authentic as they come in look and feel depicting the Afghan War in 2009, this is directed by Isreali-American director Rob Lurie known mostly for his work as a film critic and 2011 remake of 'Straw Dogs'. Lurie brings together a talented cast to depict real serving soldiers and events that doesn't go for bravado and excess, but factual accuracy.
It's almost distracting initially to see Scott Eastwood playing a character called Clint, looking more like his famous father day by day (especially here). Yet Eastwood's all-American charm soon stakes his own claim as a strong, likable and capable actor, never standing out as a huge international star and simply blending in as one of the soldiers. There is no "lead" as such, simply a brotherhood with many names and faces to get to know.
As an audience, you're here to witness how close active soldiers become when serving in a place that they may never leave alive.
With strong support from Orlando Bloom, Caleb Landry Jones and Milo Gibson, this group of young men come from various walks of life in serving the U.S Army, but together in the same outpost they go above and beyond to care for each other. A small scene with Eastwood helping a soldier through the effects of shell-shock is tense, quick and perfectly executed. It's the little moments that add to the realism of things, with no single moment or interaction played out as the "money shot".
It's the back-and-forth banter, the language, the disguised respect shared between frenemies. Cultures and beliefs collide but, at the end of the day, they all fight the same war for the same outcome. We look at everything from methods of interrogation, routine patrols, bunker inspections and negotiations with the Afghan elders. As it is all based on factual events, it's devoid of over-the-top action or characters and as grounded as they come.
When the action hits, it hits hard and out of the blue. The Taliban are a mostly unseen enemy, and we see everything from the point of view of the U.S soldiers. Explosions thunder with little warning and gunshots ring out from high up, spitting out chunks of the dusty floor or metal shacks. The violence is also raw, but never excessive and out for shock - it's out to be real.
Cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore captures equal action in day and night, where the outpost never truly sleeps and anything could happen at anytime, but we always learn as we go about the war pushing forward and what orders come in from where and why. He captures the nightmarish mountain valley in all it's beauty and danger equally, with bleak desert colours and harsh sun-baked shades.
And at 5:58am one morning, the unseen enemy becomes seen. So begins a final act that delivers one of claustrophobic, panic-filled and expertly shot battles in recent war films of the modern combat era. It's literally a race against time to get dressed and fight back as the outpost explodes in disorientating dust, shouts, bullets and shrapnel.
It's one big battle, and it's exhausting to watch and experience. And as the credits close with a very moving reflection from those men portrayed in the film, the horror of war once again hits home and presents a situation no man or woman should ever truly be placed in.
This is a tribute and realistic view on serving soldiers and military officers in unprecedented times that we are too quick to forget and only see in forms of popcorn munching entertainment; this is not that sort of disposable film.
'The Outpost' is a Millennium Media / Perfection Hunter production