Sunday, March 13, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles and Being Shellshocked: A Movie Review

Director: Jonathan Liebesman.

Writers: Christopher Bertolini.

There have been a couple of science fiction entries, in recent history, that involve an attacking alien force, taking Los Angeles. Skyline released in November of 2010, to tepid reviews. Now, Battle: Los Angeles comes in, not with a ho-hum but with a holy s^%^! Released in theatres March 11th, this second film takes an intimate view of a platoon of Marines, in the thick of an alien invasion. This unit is led by Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and not since James Cameron's Aliens, has a science fiction film looked at the Marines with such detail.

The film's script, from Christopher Bertolini (Madso's War), is focused, despite the grand scale of an alien attack. The pacing moves quickly, with several meteorites crashing down in over twelve major cities across the globe. First the infantry attacks in robotic suits, then the aerial drones fly in, followed by a burrowing giant sized metropolis. All of these elements are encountered by a small Marine unit, whose size is quickly decimated by constant warfare and battle fatigue. However, this is Hollywood, where patriotism overcomes overwhelming odds and any unfathomable situation, with a "hurrah!."

Flashing back, in 1986 James Cameron brought sci-fi fans another war themed film, from the point of view of the Marines with Aliens. In this earlier film, a platoon took the battle to the aliens, but in Battle: Los Angeles the Corp are fighting on their home turf. Also, this more recent film shows an alien race that is technologically superior to our own. There are no snapping jaws in Battle: Los Angeles, nor acidic blood. However, there are hundreds of armored foot soldiers to overcome, with diverse weaponry. In all of this, one voice leads the troops.

Aaron Eckhart plays a traumatized soldier, who has seen too much combat in the Middle East. Losing several soldiers in previous fighting, his character seems unsteady, initially. As the film progresses, Nantz's confidence slowly goes up, to cope with the situation. This enthusiasm quickly spreads through the unit. Other characters in the platoon also receive some attention, as one character hopes for a new baby, another an upcoming marriage, and another hopes to pop his cherry. These are not flat characters, but humans struggling in a trying situation. One difficulty involves distinguishing one corporal from another. Eckhart is always portraying a believable leader, moving others forward and "once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more" (Henry V).

One final note on the action is necessary before closing out this review. The tension begins early and only in a few moments does the film slow down, to allow viewers to catch their breath. Mixing the genres of fantasy, thriller, science fiction and drama, there is a lot of material in Battle: Los Angeles to cover. Director Jonathan Liebesman manages, with cinematographer Lukas Ettlin showing the full potential of a devastated, digitally enhanced LA.

Battle: Los Angeles is an excellent and thrilling film. The action is constantly straining the adrenal cortex, as explosions and firefights go off left, right and center. A film for thriller and science fiction fans, this is a film that shows the potential: what if aliens attacked the westcoast? Skip the rentals and see this one in theatres!

Overall: 7.75 out of 10 (believable, entertaining, a little overly patriotic in the end and thrilling throughout).

The film's homepage is here:

Battle: Los Angeles at Sony

Become a fan of the film on Facebook:

Battle: Los Angeles on FB

A second review of this film by Mick LaSalle at the San Francisco Gate:

Battle: Los Angeles at SFGate

The soundtrack from composer Brian Tyler is here:

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