Battle Los Angeles, Aaron Eckhart

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Starring Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict.

You expect little from a movie with that sorta title (they’ve dropped the ‘World Invasion’ in the credits though) but after watching it you’re pleasantly surprised. It’s got touches of Hurt Locker, District 9, Independence Day and Alien. As a piece of filmmaking, it is undoubtedly applause-worthy.

Watched this movie on the day of the Tsunami in Japan. Talk about end-of-world stuff. After seeing real-life catastrophe it’s hard to be moved by art nowadays even with all the fancy CGI. Nothing surprises people (like the giggly girls in the back seats at the film who probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place; guy movie) as we see terror and disaster almost on a monthly basis now. And aliens attacking Earth, well what’s new in that?

Aaron Eckhart plays Staff Sergeant Nantz, a reluctant soldier who is thrust into what is at first just an emergency evacuation procedure. But his experience in combat, inspite of being accused of ‘leaving his men to die’, makes him the hero when an evacuation turns out to be an alien invasion threatening to make the human population extinct.

The film basically centres around Nantz and his squadron pushing, struggling and battling through the streets of LA to rescue a group of civilians and get out of a bomb drop zone to safety. From the very start of this film you see the camera movement to be shaky and handheld. Almost real life documentary style. That follows through most of the film with unsteady and sometimes frantic camera movements. This doesn’t make it incomprehensible just chaotic, which is what the situation is. It adds to the drama brilliantly.

And what you’ll realise about this film is that it’s not about aliens — they’re barely focused on and it might as well just be some advanced country attacking LA — it’s about humans and their struggle to survive. About guilt and grief. Bravado and true courage. Eckhart singlehandedly in the movie and in character drives this film. His angst and guilt show through the fortitude he has to get through the day. This man is going places soon.

Full marks to director Jonathan Liebesman (The Killing Room, Darkness Falls) for turning what could have been a tepid B-movie where you know everyone’s gonna die until one guy finally bitch slaps the aliens and then a collective hooray goes out through the world into something really out of this world. A real human drama that’s visceral in as much as it is evolved. You may find it a bit long and arduous at times but like one of the characters says, ‘It’s worse than being in Afghanistan’ and the filmmakers have captured it by zooming in on just this group of people and not making it something grandiose and unwieldy like The Day After Tomorrow.

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