War movies depicting a group of soldiers against overwhelming odds are nothing new. For generations, moviegoers have been treated to cinematic recreations as well as new scenarios of fighting units in combat. Usually these films follow a typical formula that includes the tough and gritty commanding officer, the naïve new soldier, the one with a woman and children waiting at home, and one who has difficulties with combat. In the new movie Battle: Los Angeles a new twist is given to the formulaic troops-in-combat picture which produces a mixed bag of results.
Aaron Eckhart stars as Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz; a 20 year Marine who, after losing men on a recent mission, has decided that it is time for him to leave and has filed his retirement paperwork from the corps. While completing a training exercise, Nantz and a squadron of Marines at Camp Pendleton are activated for what they are told is an evacuation mission in order to clear Santa Monica and other area residents from a swarm of meteors which are scheduled to hit just off the coast.
Nantz is assigned to a new commanding officer who, like the men in his unit, is wary of Nantz as many believe that he got his men killed in his last assignment. Despite the misgivings of the new lieutenant, he agrees that Nantz offers a wealth of experience and should be just fine for a simple evacuation assignment.
However during the mission briefing, the Marines are informed that the meteors that are hitting off the coast of major cities around the world contain metallic centers and that this is very likely an invasion from an unknown force. While the Marines are deploying an otherworldly fighting unit emerges destroying everything in their path as they moved inland from the coast line. Unsure what they are dealing with, the military decides to carpet bomb the city in order to contain the alien threat and give Nantz and his unit three hours to enter the combat zone and evacuate civilians from a police station.
While the movie is for the most part the standard soldiers-at-war film which substitute’s aliens for the usual enemy forces, the strength of the cast and the solid action and special effects help the movie overcome many of its shortcomings. There is little character development in the film and scenarios that were introduced in some of the characters’ backstories early in the film were given little to no chance to develop once the shooting started.
I also had an issue with some of the tactics in the film. While it may seem nitpicking there were a few scenes where the soldiers didn’t follow logical courses of engagement until later in the film. I have had only the most basic of combat instruction from my brief time in the Air Force, yet I can think of at least four scenarios in the film where the unit failed to use the most logical options available in their combat situation. Of course any film dealing with an alien invasion is sure to have plot holes and yes I can quibble about the Air Force waiting three hours to bomb a heavily overrun area when containment would have been priority one in not allowing a hostile force that much time to entrench itself.
That being said it was an interesting and entertaining film. The enemy was sufficiently mysterious and dangerous enough to hold my interest and had me rooting desperately for the troops to rise up and strike back at the enemy. Michelle Rodriguez does fine supporting work in the role of an Air Force Tech Sgt. who may have the key to turning the tide of the battle. Eckhart is solid as the gruff but caring staff sergeant is equally strong and his unit of young corporals, including R&B singer Ne-Yo, are believable.
Director Jonathan Liebesman knows the core intention of this film is and in doing so provides enough action to keep the audience entertained throughout. despite some issues with pacing and plot. While it doesn’t have the epic feel of Independence Day, Battle: Los Angeles is a film that provides enough entertainment to make it one of the better alien invasion films ever made and one that I certainly would not mind seeing revisited in a future sequel.
3.5 stars out of 5
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