Friday, March 11, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles Review

The year's wave of alien invasion entertainment from Hollywood has arrived. In the next few months, we'll get "Cowboys and Aliens", and Steven Spielberg's TV mini-series, "Falling Skies." Last fall we had "Skyline." Today, Battle: Los Angeles has opened.

The movie opens up with a group of concerned marines being transported to battle. We hear voice over about an alien invasion. Then the whole thing flashes back twenty four hours to the story of Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz. (Aaron Eckhart) Nantz is on the verge of retiring due to age and a guilty conscience. In Iraq, a decision he made led to the deaths of some of his men. During the next few scenes, we also meet members of the platoon that was being transported to battle. Their lives would be transformed by an alien invasion. They are called to duty as the aliens land off the coast of Los Angeles.

These aliens aren't E.T. They are after our resources, primarily our water. The platoon is ordered to go to a police station overrun by aliens. After firefights with the aliens they discover only a man with his son, a girl and a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan) are the only ones alive. They are joined later by Air Force sergeant Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) who was on a mission to locate the aliens command and control base for an air strike. Together, they must fight their way out of alien territory.

Director Jonathan Liebesman's direction is grounded in gritty realism. He uses handheld cameras in almost every scene. Now, I usually hate handheld cameras because they make the viewer nauseous. But in this movie, I see the point. He wants to give it a documentary feel. He wants the movie to feel as if it's real and not science fiction. And it works. The film is a cross between Saving Private Ryan (1998) and War of the Worlds. (2005) The action is tense. And you do believe that this is a group of soldiers fighting aliens in the streets of Los Angeles.

Credit must also be given to screenwriter Christopher Bertolini. He's crafted a script that feels real. And while there are a few cliches, such as one of the soldiers in the platoon is the brother of a Marine killed previously under Nantz, the screenplay packs some emotional elements. There's one scene that I challenge you to watch without crying. Additionally, there's another fine acting performance by Aaron Eckhart. He displays heroism, regret and compassion flawlessly.

Battle: Los Angeles is an exciting work of science fiction. The grade is A.

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