Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Theatrical Poster
Source: IMP Awards

This film is not in the Empire 500.

OK, so it's that moment again where aliens are attacking earth. This time, Will Smith is not on hand to punch any aliens in the head (as in Independence Day) and former Dark Knight star Aaron Eckhart is left to pick up the pieces of a city that frankly has nothing to do with anything.

While the budget may have been cut by filming in and around Hollywood area, it has been raised in other areas of special effects and CGI that otherwise may have turned director Jonathon Liebesman's film into a catastrophe itself.

Staff Sergeant Nantz (Eckhart) has been placed in control of a platoon who has been made aware that meteors striking the earth are landing in specifically targeted areas (see War Of The Worlds). Following an unseen mission which previously failed, his platoon are weary about how capable the Sergeant is - especially after he handed in his notice a few hours previously.

Following a brief background on each member of the team - a nice touch in order to get the audience to feel emotion every time a man faces danger - the film gets straight into the action. The first few scenes are tense; the team have no idea who (or what) is attacking them (see Cloverfield) and they are just aware that they must make it to a police station to rescue civilians that have been left behind.

In my view, the film is split into two parts - the start of the action is very tense, and those liable to flinching may need some new underwear following the first sighting of the alien (which looks like, well, Alien). The second half (following a brief Assault On Precinct 13 -esque siege) is much more gun-ho which is where the film get its Black Hawk Down references from. It's okay though, the aliens have no air support and they're purely ground-based... oh, wait, there's a massive great control centre... that flies.

With all these movie references, it is easy to overlook Battle: Los Angeles as 'just another apocalyptic film'. It truly isn't. It is a mish-mash of everything that you could love about all those films mentioned above screwed up into a big ball of alien ass-whooping.

That aliens themselves are never rarely seen in any close detail - except where Eckhart is ripping one apart with his hands - and that naturally makes the audience feel very cold towards them. Deep underneath, however, they are very human-like in the way they act, from the methods of strategic attacks to one scene where one alien is pulling another injured from the fight.

Along with that, it is easy to miss the other sheer attentions to detail in the film. In one scene, Eckhart ties up a child's laces and informs him of 'safety first'. A slight romantic blossom, which never blooms, opens between Eckhart's character and the civilian vet, as they both bond; 'you have kids?', 'neither do I'. It are these tiny details that set it apart from other films.

While the ending may have been dragged out ever so slightly (at one point I thought Cloverfield was happening all over again) it certainly ended on a high.

Oh, and if you're worried about a lack of women, Michelle Rodriguez reprieves her role as the most macho lady on the planet.


It is certainly a film that you need to see.

Five stars. Bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang.


6 comments:

  1. Out of interest, did you read mine before or after you wrote this?

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  2. After... I thought you'd given it a bad review so I didn't want to read yours before I'd done mine so that mine didn't end up negative. I did find it funny how similar they were though.

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  3. Yeah it is.. and funny how yours has less praise than mine does! I loved that you picked up on the Aliens humanity too :D

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  4. Yeah, so did Ash, strangely. That said, I don't know whether it was on his first or second viewing :D

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  5. Completely disagree with this review - a two star film at best. All of the characters were worn out clichés we've seen before (Michelle Rodriguez plays the same character in every film). The opening few minutes of the soldiers' story was just plain embarrassing and pointless, just a way of making us feel 'sad' when they predictably died. A new recruit, a soldier with a wife and unborn child and the Eckhart character trying to make amends; cardboard cut out 2d characterisation (watch any other invasion film and you will find exactly the same). Even the special effects were ropey at best, with an alien design derivative of the countless creatures we've seen before. TERRIBLE.

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  6. I knew my review on this film wouldn't be popular once I'd seen the 2-star review from Empire themselves.

    I agree that the film plays on clichés as you say. It has also heavily borrowed elements from other films, but that doesn't make a film bad. In order for cinema to evolve, directors must use parts of other films, and exploit their actors to engage the audience.

    In modern cinema, the emphasis is usually too much on the special effects, so it was a nice change to see a bit of a back story on each of the soldiers. While this was not enough to really know each soldier by name - I certainly can't - it was enough to understand that it was more than just the soldiers that were going to be affected by the disaster.

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