There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
The war in Afghanistan is still raging, and the Taliban are pushing back against U.S. troops with everything they have. The U.S. have many outposts in the area, but there is one in particular that has proven to be especially challenging to hold on to. This outpost is located at the bottom of a valley, and it is pretty much surrounded by vantage points for the Taliban to use to attack. For all intents and purposes, the geography has made sitting ducks out of the troops stationed at the outpost. The Taliban attacks almost daily, and defending the outpost has become part of the troops' daily routine. Fortunately, the Taliban only really strikes this outpost with small scale attacks.
While some troops have survived at the outpost for awhile, many see being stationed there as a death sentence. Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood) is among the latest group of soldiers stationed at the outpost, and he quickly becomes accustomed to the daily routine. However, while the troops have been mostly successful at defending the outpost, Romesha begins to see weaknesses in the troops' strategy. He also begins to suspect that the Taliban are studying them and testing their ability. If that is true, it is only a matter of time before the Taliban sees the same weakness that Romesha has, and once they do, they would almost certainly strike with a much larger force than the outpost is equipped to handle.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Pacing & The Action (+8pts)
Captain Keating (-2pts)
The Outpost (+6pts)
Captain Broward (-2pts)
The Main Characters (+4pts)
Side Characters (-4pts)
Pro: The Pacing & The Action (+8pts)
What I thought was interesting about this action movie was that it had the pacing of a horror movie. Now, do not take that to mean it was scary. It was not at all, but you know how a lot of horror movies have bad things happen only at night? Doing this lets the filmmakers dial up the horror at night, dial it back down during the day, and essentially send the viewer on a roller-coaster of intensity. If it was just all horror, all the time, viewers would become desensitized to it, so switching back and forth allows the filmmakers to keep the audience on their toes. That was what the filmmakers of this movie did with the action.
The outpost was established as a hot spot for Taliban attacks. As such, attacks occurred regularly throughout this movie. The Taliban attacked, then they stopped and the soldiers went back to their lives, then the Taliban attacked again, and the cycle kept repeating like that. Pacing the action this way let the audience calm down a bit between action sequences. Then the anticipation of more attacks, and the eventual reality of them, made the action feel a lot more intense while it was happening. The action was good, but this was one of those instances where the calm between the storms helped amplify the intensity of the action when it was happening.
Con: Captain Keating (-2pts)
Something happened regarding this character that felt like it could have been a much bigger deal if the filmmakers had done it differently. Captain Keating (Orlando Bloom) was one of the Captains of the outpost, and he was the one that was morally sound, and he was a strong, respected leader. As a result of that, my issue was not with what happened, but rather when it happened and how it happened. It flipped things on its head and made the movie feel unpredictable. Unfortunately, it happened too early, so we were not as invested in the character as we would have been if it happened later. I also did not like how it happened, as it felt inconsequential compared to how it would have felt if it happened in another way. The character could have made for a game-changing, impactful, and emotional moment, but the filmmakers sort of dropped the ball with it by pulling the trigger on it too soon.
Pro: The Outpost (+6pts)
Throughout the movie, I could not get over how insane this outpost was. If the movie was not based on a true story, this would have been an issue for me, because it was just too ridiculous. However, because this was based on a true story, it being so ridiculous had me hooked. The fact that this outpost existed in such a location was insane. Yet as much as the soldiers stationed there were sitting ducks, it was not like they had a choice over whether or not to be there. This was where they were stationed, so this was where they had to serve.
As soon as the characters got to the outpost and looked around at their surroundings, I felt the same dread, hopelessness, and frustration that the characters must have felt—although I got to witness it from the safety of my own couch, so I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to the soldiers stationed there in real-life, with their lives on the line. They were wide out in the open, and they knew the Taliban would strike frequently, and they knew it could happen at any moment, and they knew that any day could be their last. This was all because someone who probably never set foot anywhere near the outpost decided that it was a good location to setup an outpost. It was crazy, and that absurdity fueled a lot of my interest in this movie.
Con: Captain Broward (-2pts)
Captain Broward (Kwame Patterson) was another Captain at the outpost, and he was basically the polar opposite of Captain Keating. He was clearly experienced, but he did not seem to understand the base or the local threat, and he did not have the respect of his men. I do not know if this was what the guy was really like in real life, but he felt like an unrealistic exaggeration. His bathroom habits were ridiculous, and his insistence on the protocol while in an intense fire-fight that threatened the lives of his men was even more ridiculous. I understand that different people have different leadership styles, and that the soldiers at this outpost probably had to deal with some level of this, but the character of Captain Broward felt like a caricature of what he was probably like in real life—if he was even based on a real person at all.
Pro: The Main Characters (+4pts)
I thought the filmmakers did a decent job setting up the main characters. It certainly could have been done better, but it was decent enough to get me invested in the characters. First there was Clint Romesha, who was the main character. He was the guy who got to the base at the beginning of the movie, so he was the relatable one, as the viewer was being introduced to the outpost along with him. He was the action hero of the movie, and there really was not much more to him than that, but it worked.
Then there was the far more interesting Ty Carter (Caleb Landry Jones), who was the outcast of the outpost. No one really liked him, no one really trusted him, and he had a temper that he seemed to be using all of his energy to keep under control. Then when things got crazy, he was the one running around distributing ammo while under fire, and he stepped up to the plate when others needed a hero. Carter's story was a satisfying story of redemption, and my only complaint was that the filmmakers did not focus more on it.
Con: Side Characters (-4pts)
This was one of those movies where there were so many side characters I had a hard time keeping them straight. Then when some of them inevitably died, I had no emotional investment in them. I understand that this movie was based on a true story, and many of these characters were based on real people, but I thought the filmmakers should have cut some of them out for the movie. Leaving only a handful of these characters in here would have given more screentime to each of the remaining ones and it would have helped get me a lot more invested in their involvement in the climax of the movie. Instead, there were just a bunch of side characters who I did not really care whether or not they lived or died in the movie's climax, and this diminished some of the climax's intensity.
Grade: B+ (85pts)
I had not heard anything about this movie before seeing it while scrolling through Netflix. I then watched the trailer and while I was not expecting a whole lot, it ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. What I liked so much about it was the premise of the outpost. If I did not know it was based on a true story, I would have thought it was too unbelievable, and I would have thought the filmmakers were trying too hard to stack the deck against their protagonists.
Knowing it was based on a true story meant that I knew the outpost—or some version of it—was very real. The absurdity of the geographical location fueled my interest in the movie, and it also helped naturally explain spaced out action. This let the filmmakers deliver a roller-coaster of action and non-action which amplified the intensity of the action when it was happening. The main characters were fine, but there were too many side characters to care about any of them. I also thought the filmmakers could have handled two of the Captains better, by having one get more development, and making the other more realistic. The movie was not great, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be.