There is no easy way to confront what is happening right now. But it’s a good dry run for how much Oscar contenders still need theaters. If Netflix has figured out how to work around the theater model, they are mostly alone in that achievement. The reason being, they spare no expense building the necessary prestige to launch an Oscar contender, with or without the big studio premieres or film festivals. All the same, movies have to open and Rod Lurie’s war film, The Outpost, based on Jake Tapper’s book, is opening this weekend on VOD. It has to share that space with Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, which has completely overtaken all movie buzz online.
It also might be a big ask to remind people about the wars in the Middle East, specifically Afghanistan and the American soldiers who fought there, and lost their lives there. The plot, “The film tells the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers who battled a force of some 400 enemy insurgents in north-eastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Originally built to engage the locals in community development projects, Combat Outpost Keating — located at the bottom of three steep mountains just 14 miles from the Pakistani border — faced a constant threat of being attacked by the Taliban, putting the U.S. soldiers stationed there at significant risk. When the brass[clarification needed] finally chose to close the base, the Taliban enemy found out and decided to make a statement.”
Lurie insists that the film be seen on the big screen and it was going to get a limited run this weekend, but then COVID struck back and theaters once again closed. It is playing at a few drive-ins in and around LA. But it is also on VOD. You might have missed hearing about The Outpost but it was given good reviews by a majority of critics and great reviews by Steve Pond, Glenn Kenny and Pete Travers. Here is Tapper talking about the movie’s release, along with a clip from the film:
The movie uses unusual techniques (for example, allotting discrete sequences to whoever is in charge of the outpost at any given time) to unfold its narrative. On top of that, two members of the ensemble who are not sons of celebs, Orlando Bloom as a determined commander and Caleb Landry Jones as a wound-up specialist, also deliver near-career-high performances.
A riveting combat movie that aims to put viewers alongside American soldiers in the midst of one of the bloodiest battles in the long-running war, “The Outpost” takes the measure of what a few dozen men endured and finds heroism not in enemies killed but in compadres saved.
In telling the story of an attack by hundreds of Taliban fighters on 53 U.S. soldiers, the film delivers one of the most harrowing combat sequences in recent memory; the sustained assault, which nearly destroyed the outpost, occupies most of the film’s final hour and should leave an audience drained by the sacrifice rather than thrilled by the victory.
He goes on to say:
Speaking as someone who first saw the film on a big screen prior to SXSW, that’s a shame. “The Outpost” can’t be as immersive and wrenching on a TV screen as it is in a theater, though it’s a gripping experience either way.
Based on the book by CNN’s Jake Tapper, written by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson and directed by Lurie (“The Contender,” “The Last Castle”), who graduated from West Point and served in the U.S. Army, the film is based on the Battle of Kamdesh, the first battle in more than 50 years for which two soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. The battle took place at Combat Outpost Keating in northern Afghanistan, an inaccessible camp surrounded by mountains that made its occupants vulnerable to attack from all sides. As an opening title points out, it was nicknamed “Camp Custer” — “because,” said one analyst, “everyone there was going to die.”
Like everything else in the film, we see the camp through the eyes of the soldiers, as a new group arrives at night by helicopter. They’re identified with their last names at the bottom of the screen — KIRK, ROMESHA, GALLEGOS, YUNGER… — and they’re greeted by an officer who speaks bluntly: “Welcome to the dark side of the moon, gentlemen.”
And here is Pete Travers from Rolling Stone:
You could also watch this intensely powerful movie, which Lurie directs with a keen understanding of the mechanics of battle and an overriding humanism that puts flesh-and-blood on the bones of the tragic story being told about Bravo Troop 3-61 CAV, one of the most decorated units of the 19-year conflict. Eastwood excels in the key role of Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha. (As the son of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, the young star of The Longest Ride and The Fate of the Furious must have seen the irony of playing a soldier named Clint.) Romesha understands that thoughts of home and family might interfere with the laser focus required to have the backs of his brothers in arms. Having written his own account of the war in the book Red Platoon, Romesha won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage under fire. Eastwood captures the soldier’s “saddle up” spirit and also his keen grasp of what led to this unwinnable situation.
We here at AwardsDaily wish Rod Lurie and crew good luck and godspeed in these unprecedented times. We will be watching on VOD this weekend and will be writing more about it.