on 4 October 2014
A premium film that received poor critical acclaim. I thought I would have my two penneth worth.
The first thing that you have to accept about this film is that it shot in an unorthodox fashion. Ignoring convention and traditional techniques in order to lend a sense of realism, I guess. It has been done better in other films and more irritatingly in others (see Bourne Identity.) In some scenes it works, in others it confuses. (Although I suspect, that may have been the intention, to try and illustrate the chaos of combat.) More thought in the editing room would have helped here. This deliberately generated uneasiness also fills in for the poor clichéd script. Although, we should acknowledge the formula that runs the military is a powerhouse of cliché (lock, stock and barrel.)
The down side to this quick paced technique is you have a hard time identifying with the characters and they remain rather two dimensional. This doesn’t necessarily matter for an out and out action film like this.
The addition of the news reports into the Marine centric story, that are the meat of the plot, is nicely done. Not an original idea, but a skilful tool to carry the story and gauge the global scene without cutting away in to painfully stereotyped pointless scenes, (see Independence Day.)
The sabre rattlingly inevitable and overly simple plot is also a device used to focus us down to as real a look as is possible, as to what the boots on the ground troops might face should an invading force of aliens ever land with hostile intentions.
I really don't understand why this film was so scathed by the critics. It stands up far better than many of its acclaimed contemporaries (Transformers for example,) even with its many faults.
Despite plenty of warning signs – not least the omnipresent shakeycam and the kind of unquestioning gung ho “John Wayne heroics” that makes for a great recruitment ad for the US Marines - Battle: Los Angeles turns out to be a surprisingly good combat picture that wears its high concept surprisingly credibly. The characters may be standard issue (Aaron Eckhart’s Staff Sergeant who thought he was through with the army and who has to win back the confidence of his distrustful men, the rookie lieutenant who has never seen combat, the one who’s about to get married, virgin soldier, etc, etc) but they’re presented in a convincing fashion by a capable cast as the film follows them on a rescue and recon mission that sees them trapped behind the lines in a Santa Monica that’s turned into a wasteland in the wake of a surprise attack by aliens who regard the planet’s indigenous lifeforms as an infestation to be exterminated so they can pillage it for its resources. The ideas aren’t complex and information is limited to what the Marines experience and work out for themselves as things go from terrible to catastrophic, the film largely playing out in real time at ground level as they go from skirmish to skirmish. Playing things deadly straight rather than winking at the audience or throwing in comic one-liners to lighten things up, the odd matter-of-fact detail like a makeshift alien autopsy to find the creatures’ weak points helps sell the pragmatic immediacy even as the clichés come thick and fast.
It’s such a simple idea to film an alien invasion from the ground level viewpoint of the soldiers in the frontline that it’s a surprise it hasn’t been done before, and in an age of shake’n’bake blockbusters where energy and constant camera movement and shifting focus go out of their way to obscure the action it’s perhaps even more surprising to see a film that uses handheld camerawork and rapid cutting that not only gives you a clear sense of what is going on but actually draws you into the action scenes. There are a few moments where the shakeycam threatens to become overdone, but Lukas Ettlin’s excellent deep focus photography makes sure you can read the information in the images while still looking convincing, the descision to shoot on film meaning the night scenes look just as impressive as the daylight ones. Just as impressive are the visual effects and Peter Wenham’s production design, which belie the comparatively modest budget to give a sense of the epic scale of the devastation to the film: some blockbusters costing three times as much don’t have as convincing visuals.
It’s easy to see why this got a rough ride from critics. Yes, it’s clichéd, yes the odd rousing speech could just as easily come from a 50s war moie and yes, ultimately the film is not much more than Blackhawk Down with aliens, but it’s such an extremely well executed bit of apocalyptic shock and awe that that’s more than enough for two hours.
The Bluray transfer is impressive but the extras - picture-in-picture featurettes and additional promo shorts - are mainly puff pieces.
There isnt a lot of plot or character development to this movie, its a simple action flick which is bigger on effects and thrills than story telling, the simple heroism and one dimensional good guys made me think that it could be a good movie for younger viewers. Perhaps its being a twelve is a reflection of the fact that it does feature alien monsters but these are closer to war of the worlds than the Alien or Predator movie varieties. There is only one gruesome part that I remember, an alien autopsy in which some soldiers poke and stab a creature with bayonets to discover what will kill it since shooting them may knock them down but does not appear to finish them off, they just take a moment to recover.
Of character development there is only a little, the platoon of soldiers are not veterans, not even their immediate commanding officer but they are joined by an older officer who is on short time to retirement. That is pretty much it. There is not really any foul language or adult content. The soldiers are called up when mysterious meteorites herald an alien attack, the aliens are after the world's water supply and that is the extent of that plot device or development, its all fighting from there on out. Initially a rescue mission behind the battle front it turns into an assault on the aliens when the civis are safe and then returning to base and being told to put their feet up moves to getting set to sally forth to meet the enemy once again.
I dont know if this is or was setting up the possibility of sequels, there could be sequels because the plot and character development is so simple, it felt like a pilot episode or feature length episode of a TV series but done with a bigger budget. While this isnt exactly a compelling film and wont win any oscars or awards it is fine as something to pass the time and could appeal to younger viewers.
This movie looks much more as a sequel to "Blackhawk down" than another "War of the worlds", but this is exactly what I liked in it. When the invasion of Earth begins, the US Marines do not ask many questions about the motivations of invaders or the sense of life in general - they just grab their weapons and start shooting back. And they give a great show!
This is an excellent war movie, picturing modern urban warfare in a series of fights which look much more like battles of Khorramshahr 1980, Beirut 1989, Monrovia 1990, Vukovar 1991, Sarajevo 1992-1994, Mogadishu 1993, 1st Grozny 1994-95, Jaffna 1995, 2nd Grozny 1999-2000 or Fallujah 2004 than the "classical" movie fights against alien invaders.
There is a relatively short introduction, in which we get to know soldiers from the Marines platoon we will follow, but after that it is the non stop battle. Action is made of numerous marches and engagements, interrupted just for short stops to regroup, catch breath, drink some water, tend to the wounded and find more ammo. Fighting is very well filmed and looks quite a lot like in "Blackhawk down". The gunfights are quite realistic and the Marines are far from super heroes - they use quite a lot of munitions to kill every enemy trooper, they make mistakes, they sometimes fall when running, they get lost in the labyrinth of ruined city, their only machine gun jams in the cloud of thick dust, etc. The butcher bill is heavy and many characters will not make it to the final credits.
Contrary to many other alien invasion movies, in this one the invaders seem to be absolutely desperate and their attack seems to have been hastily prepared and even largely improvised. Frankly, I believe it was a good idea, as it makes the whole plot credible - otherwise, if they have the secret of interstellar flight, why couldn't they just wipe us safely from the orbit (or at least destroy all our significant defence installations)? But clearly they are in an incredible hurry and they had to do fast and with what they just had at hand right now, rather than carefully plot the invasion. Also, alien invaders, their engines and their weapons look really alien - there is almost no similarity with anything earthly.
As for their motivation, at one moment we are told that they are after Earth's water, but that is clearly ludicrous as once you got the interstellar travel technology there is enough water in the space in places where there is absolutely no opposition. Aliens seem however able to use water in ways we still did not discover and as they can bring only a limited quantity of supplies with them, they depend heavily on local water to fuel the invasion. May be it will be better explained in the sequel, if there is one.
This is in large part a one man show, as the central character of Staff Sergeant Nantz gradually takes over the action. This is I believe the greatest role Aaron Eckhart played until now and he is very credible in it. It certainly took a great effort on his part - if you saw him in "Thank you for smoking", you will simply not believe that it is the same actor! Michelle Rodriguez, who appears in the middle of the movie, plays the only woman soldier we see in the battle - her character, Sergeant Elena Santos, is an electronic intelligence technician who was separated from her unit and joined the first friendly group she could find. Other actors are also doing well, but their characters mostly follow the leader.
Being very fond of war and SF movies, I must say that I was delighted by "Battle Los Angeles" and I do intend to buy the DVD when it is available. And I certainly hope for a sequel - in fact I would be very pleased if it could become a franchise showing the whole history of this war, until the day we chase this space scum to their home planet and dictate them conditions for surrender!
on 4 October 2015
This is a very good film,i like the cast and the story is quite credible,yes,its American gung ho but lets face it,if the Americans cant beat the hell out of the aliens,what chance have the rest of us?.Well worth watching and in some parts,particularly the section with the young boy who has just lost his dad and Aaron Eckhart comforts him,a part I found very moving but I'm a bit of a softie I suppose!.Its a great film.
I guess it pretty much does what it says on the tin, even if it has designs to be more psychologically thoughtful by viewing it through the eyes of the grunts charged with saving the world from alien domination. It's all very loud and the action is frantically filmed, but this only excites for a while and it grows tiresome entering the second half of a film that runs to a (too long) near two hours. The allegorical nudges in the ribs to modern day problems are heavily handled by director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans), and the likes of Aaron Eckhart and Bridget Moynahan are clearly slumming it or acting out a fantasy to appear in a popcorn alien invasion pic. Good bangs and crashes movie, if that's your thing, but it has ideas above its station and can't attain the goals it set itself. 5/10
on 30 August 2015
Interesting in its documentary style and the one way point of view about marines giving their lives no matter what. I liked the sense of war scene that feels strange in a aliens film.
What I did not like is all the rest: that is basically everything
I never do this - write a review for a film that I've seen at the cinema long before it comes out on DVD - but I felt everyone, some of whom might be put off by the sniffy negative reviews in the press, should know - when deciding on purchasing - this simple fact: Battle: Los Angeles is great!
It's Independence Day meets Saving Private Ryan - aliens v grunts in a joggly-camera, whirling ordnance, big explosion, LA-set Nirvana of shooting mayhem. The aliens are curiously limited - all that space travel and no decent AWACs or infra-red detection systems or ray guns - but that makes it a (reasonably) fair fight and allows Staff Sergeant Aaron Eckhart, Hoyt out of 'True Blood' and some other less familiar faces to actually trade fire to some effect with these extra-terrestrial scavengers.
Once the 'introduce the characters' bit is over, the film becomes a series of military cliff-hangers leavened by the odd 'come on guys' speech. A bus chase (like in Speed) gets chucked in too. There are also 'borrowings' from 'Aliens,' but it feels more like homage than plagiarism.
Crucially, it's played straight. There is no 'I know this is ridiculous' winking at the camera asides - just action. I think it's far more honest as a result. Some critics called it boorish and lacking in irony, but I think it does exactly what it says on the tin: massive shoot 'em up; Marines v Aliens; ludicrously exciting.
What's not to like?
If you know what films you like, you'll probably already know whether you want to see/own this film. It's not going to disappoint unlike some other 'actioners' I could name.
on 13 February 2012
Ok so if you are having a few beers with the boys and are looking for something of an actioner you might get some amusement from this. But the amusement is not intended by the makers. From the first few minutes we are subjected to our 'hero' saluting the American flag on the car park of the barracks without a hint of humour about it. He's deadly serious. 'America F*&K Yeah' came to mind instantly and this was my first of many laughs. The whole thing is written by some sort of American patriotic zealot.
The film has possibly the worst dialogue ever. I mean seriously it so bad I have no idea how this thing ever got made. Who gave these people millions. The script writer should be shot. I'm an amateur writer and I felt embarrased at the poor quality of the writing.
At one point, after several people have been killed, they have been fighting, running, diving and fighting some more when our hero bends down to tie a little boys shoe lace, proclaiming 'Safety first!'. Everyone in the cinema sighed at this. I'm not sure if it was meant a joke or not, but either way it was just ridiculous.
on 30 January 2015
Unfortunately, as predictable, derivative and uninvolving as you expect from it's reputation, and the current standard of moving making in Hollywood ATM.
I think Ebert sums it up best: "When I think of the elegant construction of something like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, I want to rend the hair from my head and weep bitter tears of despair. Generations of filmmakers devoted their lives to perfecting techniques that a director like Jonathan Liebesman is either ignorant of, or indifferent to. Yet he is given millions of dollars to produce this assault on the attention span of a generation."