Director – Jonathan Liebesman
Cast – Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo, Michelle Rodriguez, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, James Hiroyuki Liao, Bridget Moynahan, Noel Fisher, Bryce Cass, Michael Pena, Neil Brown Jr., Taylor Handley
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
When I first heard of this film I paid very little(almost none) attention to it, and then quickly forgot about it until the day of March 11, 2011, the film’s release date. I had never seen any TV spots, clips, or trailers for the film, but after checking out the film’s plot and hearing it was pretty good from a few friends I decided to pretty much go in “blind” and give it a watch. I was not sure if this would be “horror enough” to warrant a review, but given the plot seemed very close to that of Skyline I figured it had enough horror, and it did. This is not a devout horror film, but that did not matter thanks to the filmmakers throwing in as much tension and horror as possible, making this a truly fun “summer” film that surprised me with its positive end result.
When Ssgt. Michael Nantz(Aaron Eckhart)’s marine platoon is ordered to Los Angeles after a series of what appear to be meteorites land along the western coast, they see this as an evacuation mission in which they will save civilians from harm. For the most part they are right, however once mobilized they learn the true nature behind their organizing: America is under attack by an alien race. They soon learn that the “meteors” are not meteors but in fact contain devices that they believe will be used for war, and soon enough the alien race unleashes a vehement land and air assault on Los Angeles. As the marine platoon embarks on what most would call a guaranteed suicide mission, their journey takes them to a literal hell-on-earth as they fight for their country, citizens, and mankind.
I love aliens, and I love anything involving military, so when you mix the two together you immediately have my devout attention. From the get-go the military presence in the film is high, and it carries on that way throughout the film’s long 119 minute runtime. At times we are given good alien action and other supporting civilian characters thrown into the mix, but all in all the film is about the military platoon and the bond between brothers in arms that they must rely on if they hope to rescue the civilians and make it out alive. Despite the film’s long runtime I never once found myself bored or unengaged, and that is due to the massive amount of action and awesome character play we are given. Constant developments arise, most of them unfavorable for our platoon, and the characters are pushed to the brink of mental toughness as they cope with the fact that they may never see families, wives, or girlfriends ever again. I was very surprised at the different emotions that came with the films story, you will find yourself angry, anxious, tense, scared, laughing, and for those who love to see honor…you may find yourself crying as well. For a film to consist of so many numerous emotions is fantastic in my opinion, and it comes thanks to a fantastic screenplay from credited writer Christopher Bertolini and uncredited writer(who worked on the final draft) Shane Black(The Monster Squad, Lethal Weapon series). Another surprising note is that each of the film’s numerous characters contributed positively to the story, even the characters that did not receive much overall screen time. I was glad to see that no useless characters were thrown into the mix, and it is just another reason to consider the film’s writing execution to be top-notch in my opinion. I could go on, but all in all the film’s storyline and screenplay consists of lots of kicking alien ass, making this action packed summer-esque film one that does not require much brain to watch, but comes well-written nonetheless.
I was very VERY surprised to see Jonathan Liebesman as the film’s director, only because of his so-so efforts as a horror director. He fell flat with Darkness Falls and redeemed himself with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and The Killing Floor, but I was not expecting him to really deliver a fantastic job as director, and I was dead wrong. Liebesman delivered the film of his lifetime thus far in Battle: Los Angeles, and proves that the guy can get the job done despite the film’s big-budget and resources. His filming and camerawork is ballsy, and gives us a full-frontal view of what combat against a highly-trained alien race would be like. I keep seeing this film referred to as a “video game”, and in a sense I can see how that point can be made. We do not get any first-person footage, but the chaos never stops and neither does the gunfire, which regardless of coming off as a “video game” or not I loved it either way. The usage of the aliens was great, and while they did not look overly scary they delivered awesome firepower and tactics of war unlike any other aliens I had ever seen on film. The FX used were fantastic, and aided the intensity in giving us numerous drones and alien warships that brought on the alien blitzkrieg that literally leveled Los Angeles and left the “City of Angles” as a “City of Flames”. We get positive performances from everyone involved, and while no actor truly stood out over another(aside from screen time) Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez stole the show.
Overall, Battle: Los Angeles is an enjoyable alien invasion film that delivers heavily on the action and kicking of alien ass, and also manages to deliver a well-written screenplay that covers numerous emotions normally reserved for films not of this nature. Jonathan Liebesman has now made a name for himself as a legitimate director, and he delivered possibly the best apocalyptic film of this decade.