THE OUTPOST (2020)

Scott Eastwood in a still from The Outpost
  • Release Date: 6/07/2020
  • Cast: Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom
  • Director: Rod Lurie

A well-made action flick that is characterized by good performance and scintillating action

After securing the mainland of Afghanistan post their invasion in 2001, The US-forces toiled hard to subdue the Taliban dominated regions of the country like the well known and still illusive Helmand province. The army decided to create smaller combat outposts in these troubled areas and use them as efficient and combat-ready bases for further action into these regions. The army was also poised to go ahead forging bonds with the Tribals using money and the lure of economic and social development in the region. All this was supposed to be done using the outposts as their bases of operations. One such outpost was outpost “COP Keating” that was located in the Nuristan Province, 10 Kms away from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and surrounded by the Hindukush Mountains on all sides. The location of the outpost was, from the very beginning, known to be troublesome and one of the military staff even documented his thoughts of naming the outpost, “COP Custer” as he believed that anyone posted there was doomed to be killed.

After days, months, and years of facing off against minor skirmishes, ambushes, and at the same time also keeping a delicate status quo with the locals, “COP Keating” loses three commanders in quick succession. Two of these deaths are attributed to enemy ambushes while another commander is relieved of his duty evidently for his attitude towards the situation. The Military decides to close the outpost owing to the piling risks and the little good that its existence was doing to the cause. But before they could wrap up their operations, on 3rd October 2009 “COP Keating” was violently attacked by more than 300 armed-to-the-teeth marauding Taliban fighters who believed that they could annihilate their enemies by their sheer numbers and strategically advantageous position. However, a highly motivated team of soldiers at the outpost had other plans. In the next few hours, the Taliban realized that they were up against an equally motivated and well-equipped lot who were not willing to yield an inch of their land.

I have to admit that The Outpost has some of the best war action that I have seen in recent times. The soldiers are shown fighting against an enemy that is nearly faceless. We are shown a flurry of bullets raining down on them but are never shown in much detail where it is coming from making the situation even more tense. While the soldiers are scampering within the compound for cover and retaliatory action, we get brief peeks into the surrounding mountains where we see extensive muzzle flashes emanating giving us an idea of the overwhelming number of enemies that the soldiers were up against. It gives us an idea of how overwhelmingly outnumber the soldiers are and how rooted in the topography the Taliban are. The cinematography, action choreography, and editing of the sequences helps us understand the exact predicament of the soldiers in action inside the campus. The editing and the visuals are chaotic but at the same time, it makes complete sense and lets us follow each of the key players and gives us a clear idea of their contribution to the war. The action and the bombardment feel on the face and incite the kind of tension and thrill that makes these sequences special. A lot of close-ups are used to give us an idea of the mental state of the men in the action and it worked perfectly.

Caleb Landry Jones in a still from The Outpost

The Outpost takes a stark departure from what we have come to expect from Hollywood war films. Every character involved in the film is portrayed as a human being who is flawed and does what the situation demands of him. There are no hero-worships or slow-motion action sequences glorifying the selfless deeds of the men for their country in the field of battle. On the contrary, the term “country” is not even referenced in the film. Instead, the men find themselves in the middle of an extraordinary situation and do all that it takes to get themselves and their compatriots out of it without losing their lives. Some of them are shown trying to help their mates and they do so with little care for their own safety and security. This manner of approaching the subject and the characters adds a lot of credibility and humanity to the narrative which makes the film easily relatable and believable.

The film is over 2 hours long and the climactic battle is only about 40 minutes long. The rest of the film is about peeping into the lives of the men involved and also taking a look at their day to day functioning at “COP Keating”. We are also made privy to the deaths of two commanding officers and the unceremonious departure of a third that gives us valuable insight into how things worked in the outpost. These portions may prove to be boring for many but I thoroughly enjoyed these sequences and also liked the subtlety with which the director drove home the important points. However, the ones who are in the film for the action will be greatly annoyed by the delay that these portions cause in getting to the war. They will also feel that these sequences are leading nowhere.

The interpersonal drama between the soldiers has been criticized by most of the critics who found it underwhelming and shallow. They also pointed out the fact that the dialogues between the men made little sense, were ruptured and the actors were not able to extract any genuine emotions for the characters that they were essaying. I have to disagree with them on all counts. Considering the situation that the characters were in, their dialogues were supposed to be incoherent and situational. Some of the men were meeting the others for the first time and this drove a bigger wedge between their understandings of each other and the way they communicated. We see some of them fighting among themselves, question leadership, and get tired of each other’s verbal banters. All this made a lot of sense and felt natural. However, the concentration of the director on zeroing in on the different soldiers and showing his dynamics in relation to his company and also giving us a peek into his past did slow down the narrative considerably which again would be a problem for the ones who are in the film for the action.

Caleb Landry Jones in a still from The Outpost

The Outpost is almost documentary-esc in its approach and it serves the film very well. Most of the actors did a great job with their characters and since many of them didn’t have any memorable past roles, we were able to accept them for the characters that they are playing. The most recognizable face in the lot was Orlando Bloom and he is terrific in his short essay. Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones are entrusted with a lot of heavy lifting in terms of performances and both the actors do a phenomenal job. I especially enjoyed Caleb Landry Jones’s bordering on insane performance and how his character develops through the narrative.

Rod Lurie pulls off a difficult film with elan and renders it informative as well as entertaining. The Outpost narrates one of the bravest David versus Goliath stands in the history of warfare and it does complete justice to the exploits of the men who made it out of it as well as the memory of the ones who were lost.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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