I have always been pretty sceptical of the term ‘war porn’ when I have heard people trying to find a way to describe realistic war films. I guess most of my scepticism comes from the fact that some of the films that have had that tag placed on them have been films like 12 Strong and Lone Survivor – both films that I have enjoyed and definitely seen cinematic value in. Having said that though I can easily see why that description can be used when it comes to a film like The Outpost.
Now that in no way means that I did not enjoy the film. In fact I feel that director Rod Lurie (Straw Dogs) has done a fantastic job, but at the same time this is a film that is certainly an acquired taste for its audience. Story-wise the film is slim, this is a film that rests on the laurels of its battle sequences – and when it comes to them it is something that the filmmakers do very, very well.
Set during the war in Afghanistan The Outpost centres around the events that occurred at Camp Keating in the lead up to the epic battle that saw the outpost attacked in one of the most brutal battles of the war. The film shows the lead-up to the attack as the Camp’s Commanding Officer CPT Ben Keating (Orlando Bloom – Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl) tries to reach out to the local community and begin a working relationship with them in a bid to rid the region of the Taliban.
At the same time we see the nearly daily Taliban attacks on the base which put the lives of all the soldiers, including Keating’s trusted friends SPC Ty Carter (Caleb Landy Jones – X-Men: First Class) and SSG Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood – Suicide Squad), in danger. And while the men at the base report that they are worried about what might happen to such an under-manned and under-protected base nothing is done right up to the day that the Taliban attack it with all their might.
Why I say the term ‘war porn’ fits this film like a glove is because of the fact the film feels like you are watching a documentary. The film does not feel like a staged drama, not even in scenes with the soldiers talking to each other. The screenplay contains such natural dialogue that at times I felt like was watching actual footage and that is further enhanced by the performances of the actors – both experienced and not.
Unfortunately that naturalistic style will also be the movie’s downfall in some people’s eyes. That style leads to the audience at times ‘losing’ what characters are where and what is happening to them and that becomes a real issue when characters start getting wounded in the actual battle. Given that the characters at times are wearing identical uniforms and helmets that makes not being able to keep track of characters a lot more of a problem.
I found the real strength of this film though is the directional work of Rod Lurie and his cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore (Hellboy) who have captured the battle sequences remarkably well and have made them realistic, cinematic and suspense all at once, although I am also guessing that would have been aided by having some of the surviving soldiers on set as well.
My advice when it comes to The Outpost is don’t even bother if you are not a fan of war films. The most remarkable thing about the film is that I found it one of the most naturalistic war films I have ever watched and that just enhances the horror of modern warfare to an extreme that we seldom see in cinema today.