Review by Sean Boelman
Based on the book by journalist and author Jake Tapper, The Outpost is an entertaining and surprisingly affecting film about the failures of U.S. intervention in foreign countries. Apart from a few moments that lean too heavily on cinematic war movie tropes, this may be one of the most shockingly good movies of the year thus far.
The film explores the events that led up to and occurred during the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan, in which a group of American soldiers at a remote Combat Outpost found themselves trapped and attacked by a band of Taliban fighters. And while writers Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson could have made a gung ho jingoistic action flick out of it, they made something much more thought-provoking out of it.
For the first hour or so, this film follows the soldiers as their unit goes through a series of leadership changes. This portion of the script questions the weaknesses of military leadership and how unprepared they were in facing the conflict in Afghanistan. Although it would have been nice to see more from the average soldier’s perspective, the film still mostly works.
The film does a very good job of developing all of the soldiers in a compelling way. Much of this first half is dedicated to connecting the audience with the characters, allowing their personalities to come across naturally. As a result, the sympathy viewers will feel for them is much deeper than the generic patriotism on which the genre is typically founded.
Lurie assembled a strong ensemble for the film led by Scott Eastwood, but it is the supporting cast that stands out the most. The only true weak link is Orlando Bloom who feels out-of-place as the unit’s first commander. Caleb Landry Jones and Milo Gibson are among the standouts, but the character actors in the background are just as integral to the film’s success.
The second half of the film presents an intense depiction of the battle itself, and Lurie does an amazing job of making the audience feel immersed in the action. It’s disappointing that, given current circumstances, audiences won’t get to see the film on the big screen as it was intended, but it’s still plenty exciting enough at home.
One of the most impressive things about the film is the way in which it establishes the world of the film. Even though most of the events are confined to a small outpost, the film feels unexpectedly big. The result is that, when the bullets start to fly, the sense of entrapment that Lurie creates is all the more constricting.
The Outpost is much better than anyone would have expected it to be. Somehow managing to be both a meaningful meditation on the costs of war and an exciting thriller, it’s the rare well-made crowd-pleaser.
The Outpost hits VOD on July 3.