Battle Los Angeles starts us off in the thick of the action with explosions, confusion, dirt, shock and sporadic gunfire. We see the chaos of unplanned combat. While we’re still trying to get a grounding on what’s happening, we jump back 20 hours to before the invasion begins.
Hardly a great way to start a film, using cheap director’s tricks that many viewers find disconcerting. Time doesn’t flow backwards in normal life, it pans out in a linear chronological order. We like that order.
Saying that, I think the director (Jonathan Liebesman) can be excused partially; Battle Los Angeles was never going to be a film where the plot was anything but obvious. The technique also works to highlight how quickly the chaos has ensued.
Of course, opening with a bang also engages us quickly before we jump back to more of a serene time.
Battle Los Angeles – Back to the beginning…
Once we’ve jumped back 20 hours, we get the action-film’s equivalent of character development. We’re introduced to Staff Sergeant Michael Nants (Aaron Eckhart) who’s just had his retirement reluctantly approved by a superior officer and close friend. SSgt Nants wants out for personal reasons, and his minds made up.
Unfortunately before he manages to enjoy a few cold beers on his porch, the shores of Los Angeles start getting hammered by dozens of small meteorites. With some lovely visual effects too. Sadly we quickly learn this isn’t a meteorite shower at all, or even confined to LA. This is an invasion.
Back into uniform and reassigned to a new platoon, SSgt Nants and his team are flown to Santa Monica Airport where they are to begin their mission. We’re now introduced to the rest of his unit, including one of my favourite female-action protagonists Michelle Rodriguez.
Not only under gunfire, but also under a tight time-scale, the marines must fight deep within the invaded area to rescue trapped civilians. The White House has approved and initialised a fire-bombing protocol, to stop further invasion of LA. Time to target: 3 hours. Fire-bombing of urban areas; somewhat of a de facto response from governments in apocalypse films (28 Weeks Later anyone?).
Battle Los Angeles Critique
Needless to say that after the action begins, it doesn’t stop exploding, shooting or running for a good 2 hours. The special effects were very good and the scenes were similar to Cloverfield in the way you don’t actually see the aliens but know they’re only a street away.
One point of critique that this film suffers from severely is the use of action/military clichés. The entire film experience would have been better without these rather cringing moments, but perhaps Liebesman left them in to portray a lighter atmosphere among the chaos and scenes of destruction. He wasn’t shooting for an 18 certificate after all.
Before I make my next tiny critique, I’ll admit I have no military experience, only common sense and lots of hours experiencing military based media (movies, games, books etc). That said, the highly skilled marines make some very strange tactical decisions in this film. Moving from cover, giving their position away and walking down the centre of war-torn roads etc. Yes I agree it’s an entertainment film and not a factually correct manual for special forces, but it felt like it undermined the actors portrayal somewhat. Also as a counterargument to my criticism the film was about aliens invading Earth… so perhaps normal combat tactics can be ignored in these circumstances
Eckhart & Rodriguez
Most people are likely to recognise Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight, where he put in a really good performance as both of his characters. As SSgt Nants, he doesn’t let us down either. Nants is without a doubt the strongest and biggest presence on our screens for the whole movie. Throughout the film he excellently portrays a retiring forces Sergeant, as well as his motives and emotions. Very believable work Mr Eckhart, well done.
Michelle Rodriguez is one of my favourite female actors, fitting the tough-chick boots very well and appearing in such explosive films as Resident Evil, SWAT and Avatar. Her background of playing other military character’s must have boosted her performance here. Unfortunately the butt of many cliché moments in BLA, she still manages to put in a solid performance.
Battle Los Angeles – The crunch conclusion…
I originally saw Battle Los Angeles at the cinema and it definitely warrants a large screen with a loud sound system. A friend of mine perfectly described this film as the result of blending Independence Day and Black Hawk Down together into one 2 hour action film.
Is it worth watching?
Yeah I’d say so. If you’ve got a good movie set up at home I think you’d appreciate this film more than those who don’t. For the visuals and action scenes it’s probably worth grabbing on Blu-ray too.
I’m giving this film 80%,only being let down by cliché and overdone apocalypse action scenes.
Well done Liebesman, Eckhart and Rodrigeuz.