I was excited to see this movie because it was directed by Rod Lurie, one of the founders and presidents of the Critics’ Choice group, which I’m a part of. He stopped writing about movies and started making them, helping Joan Allen get an Oscar nomination, after meeting her at an awards show and saying he’d write something that plays to her talents. Usually it’s only a person like Tarantino that can say, and do that.
Lurie based this on Jake Tapper’s book, which deals with some of the hypocrisies of war. And unfortunately, I’m just burned out on the genre. It doesn’t help that screenwriters Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson didn’t enthrall me much with this story.
It takes place at the Combat Outpost Keating, an American base in Afghanistan. The thought was that the locals might help them, and that starts with an interesting scene where they all meet up. That led to the Battle of Kamdesh in 2009.
Lots of words appear on the screen telling us the various soldiers involved, what their rank is, and what their orders are. It gets a bit confusing, or maybe I just wasn’t paying it the attention I should have (my screening copy of the film did spend a great deal of time buffering).
Scott Eastwood, who I believe has a father in the business, is perfect as Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha (yeah, he is a real-life hero, so the name Clint is just a coincidence). Mel Gibson’s son Milo is also in this. He’s played a soldier in a few other films he’s done.
Orlando Bloom is the other big name (unrecognizable with the military shaved head), playing Captain Keating. He has a few scenes with the locals that work; but for me, it was a treat seeing Caleb Landry Jones. I first saw him in The Last Exorcism as a creepy local. He played the doofus brother in Contraband and American Made (Tom Cruise), and the intimidating brother in Get Out. He had an interesting scene with Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project. When he was at the Critics’ Choice Awards with the cast of Three Billboards, we were drinking together and talking film. His performance here was solid stuff. It’s just not enough to save the film.
Since about 50 soldiers at the bottom of a mountain have to face hundreds of Taliban, I thought about Lone Survivor. I also thought a bit about the documentary Restrepo a few times while watching this.
There are moments of humor that don’t quite work, and it’s not very memorable or all that creative. I suppose if you enjoy war films, you’ll probably want to catch this one. It’s just a shame that it often felt like a video game instead of a movie.
2 stars out of 5, and you can find it on VOD.