20th Aug2020

‘The Outpost’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy, Cory Hardrict, Milo Gibson, Jacob Scipio, Taylor John Smith, James Jagger, Jonathan Yunger | Written by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson | Directed by Rod Lurie

An isolated unit of American soldiers have to defend themselves against an overwhelming attack by Taliban forces in this gripping combat thriller that’s based on the real life Battle of Kamdesh. Directed by West Point graduate (and former film critic) Rod Lurie, it’s a supremely tense experience that places the audience right in the middle of the action.

Adapted from CNN journalist Jake Tapper’s best-selling book (The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor), the film takes place in Combat Outpost Keating, a virtually indefensible location in Afghanistan, situated in a valley at the base of three mountains. Already accustomed to regular surprise attacks, the 53 U.S. soldiers are forced to fight for their lives when the long-anticipated “Big One” finally arrives and they’re swarmed by an estimated 400 Taliban combatants.

Scripted by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (whose previous true story movies include The Fighter and Patriots Day), The Outpost does an efficient job of both introducing us to key characters and establishing a constant sense of danger, as various members of the cast are picked off even before the real shooting starts. Two figures in particular stand out: SSG Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood, excellent) and SPC Ty Carter (Caleb Landry Jones, superb as always), and both men become the audience’s main focus in the latter half of the film.

Lurie creates a strong sense of place, aided by a useful scene early on, in which Romesha lays out exactly how he’d attack the base if he was a Taliban attack unit. Similarly, the dialogue is convincing throughout, conveying a believeable sense of camaraderie amongst the men.

However, The Outpost‘s pièce de résistance is its stunning final act, a spectacular, hour-long gun battle punctuated by shock deaths, tense shoot-outs and heroic rescue attempts. Using long takes and handheld cameras, Lurie’s accomplished direction throws you right into the middle of the action, so much so that you’ll find yourself holding your breath and ducking as the bullets whizz overhead. (It’s fair to say that this would be an even more stunning experience in an actual cinema).

The Outpost is particularly commendable for the way it largely eschews the mawkish sentimentality that can sometimes accompany true life stories given the big screen treatment. There’s also a strong sense of underlying anger at the fact that these men were essentially betrayed by the top brass, who pretty much abandoned them to their fate, having already decided to close the camp.

Lurie closes the film with two other respectful touches: first, a series of moving interviews and tributes that play over the final credits; and second, the reveal that a couple of the real-life survivors are actually playing themselves in the film.

Ultimately, The Outpost is a superbly realised piece of filmmaking that stands as one of the year’s best thrillers. It’s just a shame that the ongoing Covid-19 situation means it won’t be getting the cinema outing it deserves.

**** 4/5

The Outpost is available on DVD and Blu-ray now, in the US, from Screen Media.


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