The Outpost

Posted on July 2, 2020 at 5:50 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for war violence and grisly images, pervasive language, and sexual references
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Substance abuse, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense wartime peril and violence, very graphic and disturbing images, many characters injured and killed, possible suicide attempt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 3, 2020

Copyright ScreenMedia 2020
There are war stories that are about strategy and courage and triumph over evil that let us channel the heroism of the characters on screen. And then there are war stories that are all of that but also engage in the most visceral terms with questions of purpose and meaning that touch us all. “The Outpost,” based on the book by news correspondent Jake Tapper, is that rare film in the second category, an intimate, immersive drama from director Rod Lurie, a West Point graduate and Army veteran who knows this world inside out and brings us from the outside in.

The script by Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy wisely avoids the usual expository dialogue as a newcomer is introduced to the group. Instead, we get a crisp, military briefing-style scene-setting with on-screen text informing us that the military has set up outposts in areas that are impossible to defend and given the 53 soldiers there the impossible task of both befriending the locals and fighting off the Taliban. This one is Combat Outpost Keating, located in a near-indefensible mountain-enclosed area in Afghanistan 14 miles from the Pakistani border.

Lurie and his cast, including Orlando Bloom, Scott Eastwood, and breakout star Caleb Landry Jones, understand the small revelatory moments, the trash-talk and taunting that is the way people away from home and coping with unendurable uncertainty connect to each other. Then there are the brief calls home when they pretend to be normal and maintain those connections. As a sign nearby reminds them to keep the calls to 10 minutes, one soldier puffs away while assuring his wife that he stopped smoking. A series of new commanding officers each bring his own ideas and style of communication. Over the course of the movie, we see how much we expect from the military, from 21st century warfare to diplomacy. Over the closing credits, we get a devastating reminder of how heartbreakingly young these soldiers are.

There are telling moments in the interactions with the locals. The soldiers do their best to implement the policies they are there to carry out, which means “soft power” like paying them for their people who have been killed as collateral damage or even as enemy or possibly those who are dead by other means but maybe a way to get more money from the Americans. “I will lose my honor with my elders,” one explains via a translator. “I can regain my honor one of two ways. One way is for all of you to lay down your arms and watch as your communities flourish with the help of the US and Allah.” That support comes in the form of “money, contracts, projects.” The other way does not need to be explained to the Afghanis or to us. The outpost also has to develop sources of intelligence in a place where there is no reason for anyone to trust them and they do not speak the language. There is a local version of the boy who cried wolf, constantly warning of an attack but with no useful details. And then there are the attacks, always expected yet always unexpected because they never know when.

Impeccable camerawork from Lorenzo Senatore and editing by Michael J. Duthie give the film a documentary feel matched by understated, natural performances from the cast. We feel their exhaustion. And we feel their dedication, more important even than their training or their courage. Their loyalty to each other in the face of risk so dire the outpost is known as Camp Custer is itself the answer to the question the story raises about purpose, meaning, and why we are here. The question of why we are there it is wise enough not to try to resolve.

Parents should know that this is a war movie with constant, intense, and graphic military and terrorist violence, disturbing images, characters injured and killed, constant very strong and crude language, sexual humor, smoking and substance abuse.

Family discussion: Which was the best commanding officer of the outpost? How do the soldiers manage their stress?

If you like this, try: “Beaufort” and “1917”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews War

Trailer: Killing Reagan

Posted on August 6, 2016 at 8:00 am

Director Rod Lurie (“The Contender”) brings us “Killing Reagan,” the story of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan On March 30, 1981. It is coming to the National Geographic Channel on October 16, 2016, with Tim Matheson and Cynthia Nixon as the Reagans.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Television Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Deterrence

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

Teens may think that it does not really matter who gets elected President. Or, they may think that the important issues in this year’s election are the domestic controversies that attract most of the coverage, like abortion and gun control. This movie gives teens a chance to think about the importance of a candidate’s character and judgment, and to imagine how they might respond if presented with the direst circumstances.

The movie is set in 2007. Iraq has invaded Kuwait and President Emerson has to respond quickly. At first, his advisers worry about how his response will affect the campaign. Then, when Emerson tells the Iraqis that he will use a nuclear weapon to destroy Baghdad, his advisers worry about survival.

One of the movie’s strengths is its grounding in recent history, including the bombing of Hiroshima, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Operation Desert Storm. The movie begins with news footage of Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton explaining, as they send troops into battle, that what they are doing will save lives and promote peace.

Like his predecessors, President Emerson must decide how to respond to aggression that affects the US indirectly – for the moment. But unlike his predecessors, he does not have the luxury of time. In the past, it took days to move troops around, and diplomats used that time to negotiate. But there is no time for diplomacy when both sides have nuclear bombs and one refuses to back down.

Emerson has a couple of additional complications. Like Gerald Ford, he was appointed Vice President and then became President unexpectedly. He has never been elected to national office, and is concerned that he does not have the broad support of the voters. The threat from Iraq comes in the middle of his first campaign for the Presidency. And Emerson is Jewish. The Iraqi diplomat refuses to negotiate with him because of his religion. And he worries that aggressive action will be seen by Americans as unnecessary, risky, and more based on concerns about Israel than about the US and world peace.

Talk to teens about how Presidents have made these decisions in the past, those that were successful, those that failed, and those that are still being debated. Ask them whose advice they would listen to, if they were in Emerson’s position, and what they would do if they did not have his Hollywood-style convenient resolution. What kind of qualities should a President have, and how are those qualities revealed in campaigns? What do they think about the way Emerson accepted the consequences of his decision?

FAMILY CONNECTIONS: Two excellent movies released in 1964 raised the prospect of a mistakenly fired nuclear weapon. The better remembered of the two is the classic comedy “Dr. Strangelove.” But the dramatic version, “Fail-Safe,” is also worth watching.

Related Tags:

 

Drama War
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik