geezer cinema: the outpost (rod lurie, 2020)
Thursday, August 06, 2020
Fictional recreation of a non-fiction book by CNN's Jake Tapper. I can not speak to the verisimilitude of the film, but it has been praised by participants.
The hardest thing about making a war film is balancing the human heroics with the possibility of making a pro-war movie. Of course, not everyone worries about this distinction ... there are many pro-war movies with heroic behavior. But there are also films like John Huston's WWII documentary The Battle of San Pietro. The Army delayed its release, fearing the brutal realism would hurt morale. Some called San Pietro an anti-war film, and Huston agreed. But the soldiers in the film are heroic, and no matter how disturbing the footage and no matter the intent of Huston, The Battle of San Pietro is ultimately a story that doesn't exactly glorify war but which presents the soldiers in a heroic light.
The Outpost is filled with regular soldiers acting heroically. Their heroism drives the picture. And the setup (American soldiers stuck in "Camp Custer", an indefensible position from which no one expects to escape) puts us on the side of the soldiers when the Taliban begins the inevitable attack. What follows is a bit by-the-book, but Rod Lurie films effectively ... we never lose sight of where we are during the long second half. But The Outpost never has any pretenses towards being an anti-war film. We learn that a few officers were disciplined for their poor planning and leadership, but there is no sense that the Army itself is the problem. Compare this with the mini-series Generation Kill, which never hesitates to indict the powers that be.
The actors do what they can ... they work great as a group, and it's not their fault the script as written doesn't ask too many characters to stand out individually. Scott Eastwood sounds like dad, and Caleb Landry Jones does wonders with the most showy role. There's a crappy song for those who need to be beaten over the head so they don't miss anything important. The Outpost is a solid film that, especially in its second half, will engross most audiences.