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‘The Outpost’ (review)

Produced by Paul Michael Merryman, Paul Tamasy,
Marc Frydman, Jeffrey Greenstein,
Jonathan Yunger, Les Weldon

Screenplay by Eric Johnson, Paul Tamasy
Based on The Outpost: An Untold
Story of American Valor
by Jake Tapper

Directed by Rod Lurie
Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones,
Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy, Cory Hardrict,
Milo Gibson, Jacob Scipio, Taylor John Smith,
James Jagger, Jonathan Yunger

 

Excellent adaptation of Jake Tapper’s nonfiction book, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor”, depicts the insane circumstances under which a group of US Army soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan.

The men arrive at the outpost at night to avoid detection from the Taliban, who are not known to possess any night vision technology.

Even in the dark, the soldiers are stunned and horrified to see that the outpost itself is situated in a valley completely surrounded by mountains, thus giving the enemy the high ground.

Obviously, this is a huge violation of Military Strategy 101 and the men are understandably concerned.

Still, they’re determined to do their jobs and follow their mission, which largely involves making nice with the locals, especially the elders.

Orlando Bloom plays the commander of the outpost and he is quite good at negotiating with the elders, offering them genuine respect and courtesy and asking the same in return. The elders are impressed with him and feel he has honor.

A turn of events puts this understanding into jeopardy and the outpost could be facing a major threat.

Rod Lurie, former film critic and director of the excellent The Contender, does a terrific job of balancing the men’s fear and frustration with their courage in what would be, for most people, unimaginable circumstances.

The men are portrayed realistically – flawed, scared, scarred. Yet the film also treats them with respect yet is never fawning.

Lurie also shows an impressive flair for his handling of battle scenes. They are exciting, harrowing, nerve-wracking, but never feel forced or artificial, aiming for the big heroic moment or the flag-waving cheer.

The film is admirably apolitical, just wanting to show the terrible experience these disparate men went through and the incredible valor many of them displayed. One of the pleasures of the film is that while there are certain characters who we expect will bring their heroic traits to the fore under fire, there are others who unexpectedly put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers.

This is truly good stuff, with across-the-board stellar performances. Scott Eastwood is aces, and special mention must be made to Caleb Landry Jones, portraying the most troubled member of the outpost. It’s a marvelous performance and is very affecting.

The Outpost is one of the year’s best thus far.

 

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