The Outpost review – shakes your core and rattles your bones

4

Summary

The Outpost will shake your core and rattle your bones.

War films now have become the westerns of their day; like mob films of the ’90s, they are engrained in the American film lexicon. Some will argue that they have become tired and others will say they have lost their way. Gone are the war films of ideals like Paths of Glory, Platoon, The Thin Red Line, and Saving Private Ryan, replaced by fictitious action films starring Owen Wilson on the side of the mountain or a film like Midway, which is based on real events but is more of a live-action adaption of the old Nintendo game, 1942. There also though has been a resurgence of great films of late that drops you in the middle of the battle like 1917 and Dunkirk. The Outpost is that kind of war film, a contemporary one, taking its time to get there with its unusual setup leading to a second half that’s relentless — it shakes your core and rattles your bones.

The Outpost is based on the best-selling nonfiction book by Jake Tapper titled The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. The film chronicles a specialized unit of U.S. soldiers who protect Combat Outpost Keating. They face attacks daily in the middle of the remote mountains of Afghanistan, as they try to keep the peace. Even though they continue to pay off the locals, changing of leadership, and keeping supplies and fortifying, shutting down Keating keeps getting pushed back. This all leads up to the bloodiest American engagement of the Afghanistan War and the men became the most decorated unit of the conflict.

The script is based on a true story about one of the most honored units in the U.S. military’s history, Bravo Troop 3-61 CAV battle of Kamdesh. It has an interesting device, telling the story of the unit through the numerous leadership changes (played by Orlando Bloom, Milo Gibson, Kwame Patterson, and Taylor John Smith) and doesn’t try to find any morals or hidden wins here. The film is presented as the outpost they are assigned is viewed as a meaningless appointment and way to die; almost purgatory in a way where heaven is returning home, and death is hell. The adapted script from Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy (both penned scripts for The Fighter, Patriot’s Day, and The Finest Hours) presents the film as it is; bad things happen to young men in battle as some die, others live, and the only thing we have to show for it is that the United States guard this camp out of pride instead of any tactical advantage. A kind of political, my dick is bigger than yours stand-off. Nor does the film try to make heroes out of these men because they already are, and allows the viewer to sit back and marvel at the sheer bravery of what occurred here.

There are two performances that stand out during the film. Scott Eastwood plays Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha; he really hasn’t found a film that utilizes his natural gifts but has found it in Outpost. There are glimpses of his dad, especially when he barks at his fellow troops seethingly through his teeth how they are going to take back this “*****.” He has the natural charisma and power of a movie star. The other is Caleb Landry Jones, as Specialist Ty Carter, a soldier with cowboy tendencies who heroically saves his fellow soldiers all over the battlefield while even going through survivor’s guilt in the middle of battle. His final scene is so authentic for a young man full of testosterone, hitting on a beautiful woman even though he is suffering from great post-traumatic stress as he breaks down in front of her. Both actors play men who were awarded the Medal of Valor, which is the first time that has ever happened for two soldiers in the same conflict.

The Outpost isn’t the best war film ever made, and I wouldn’t put it with such new classics as the ones I mentioned above. It is, however, an effective one whose battle sequences feel like they were lifted from Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. The first half is interesting, showing the politics and hardships of leadership, yet doesn’t exactly mesh with the film’s startling second half. Director Rod Lurie (The Contender) makes it work though, considering the issues the camp had that lead to the issues the troops had with defending it during the Battle of Kamdesh. The end result can be exhilarating and surprisingly moving, and if you are one of those people untouched by those endless YouTube videos of soldiers surprising their families as they return home, well then, what a privileged life you’ve had.


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M.N. Miller

M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.

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