Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Battle: Los Angeles"

I just got back from seeing Battle: LA at the local theater, and I have to say that I walked away throughly satisfied.

I like this film a whole lot, largely because it tells the type of alien invasion story that movies haven't been able to tell up until now.  This isn't The War of the Worlds (1953)(1), or ID4, or even The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)(1). The Aliens here don't use super lasers, or force fields, and aren't able to read our minds and give us bad dreams. Bottom line, they are here to slug it out on the ground, just like we have been doing since the day's of Sparta. Part Saving Private Ryan, park Black Hawk Down and part We Were Soldiers, Battle: LA tells  a gritty, dirty, blinding, deafening story of marines in modern combat. It puts you in the middle of the fight, where teamwork and training are every bit as important as the gun in your hand, and the whole while adding an new level of suspense to the scene because you really don't know what the bad guys are capable of.

If you give any of the critics any credence (most of the time, I don't), I might be able to save you some disappointment. This isn't an epic film. The good guys don't single-handedly wipe out the alien invasion, they don't save the only human who understands the alien code and they don't get lined up at the end of the movie and given Medals of Honor. (Minor spoiler alert) Actually, at the end of the film, the ones that made it out are rewarded with a hot breakfast, which they turn down in order to rejoin the fight alongside their comrades. If you go in there looking for a broad ranging, clean cut, multi-character analysis of war, you're going to be disappointed "six ways till Sunday". This isn't about complex story telling, showing all the sides, or even character development. This is about showing what Marines (and sailors(2), soldiers(3) and airmen(4)) can do in a fight. Espirit de corps (USMC style) is on full display here, and it is shown with pride throughout. If you go in looking for a good action flick that actually pays respect to our fighting men and women(5), you might just walk out with a smile on your face.

In an interview with the BBC,
Aaron Eckhart talked about why he took the role, and what he wanted the
film to be. He said that he wanted the film to be "a love letter to the Marine Corps". I suppose you could accuse Battle: LA of being a propaganda film then, but I hesitate to actually say
that myself because of how negative a connotation that carries these
days. But if you think there is something wrong with showing professional combatants at work in defense of their home soil(6)... well, I really am not sure I have anything to say to you.

When its all said and done, Battle: Los Angeles isn't about the big picture, its about the little one, and how amazing an individual fighting spirit can be when put to the test.

1) I note the dates because I have no respect for the modern remakes.
2) Navy Corpsman
3) a handful of guys from the 40th Infantry Division
4) An Air Force technical sergeant from a radio listening unit.
5) What a concept!
6) And please, please, if you honestly believe that the aliens in this film are some stand-in for [insert nationality/ethnicity/race/religion/whatever here], than I strongly advise you to either make your case with facts to back it up, or just don't talk to me. You're entitled to your opinion, and I will respect that, but there is such a thing a reading too much into something!

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