Review: BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Review: BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011)


Alien invasion movie are dime a dozen. You name it -- 1996's INDEPENDENCE DAY to 2005's WAR OF THE WORLDS and right down to last year's SKYLINE. All those movies are often told in civilians' point-of-view, but BATTLE: LOS ANGELES tweaks the formulaic structure in which the U.S. Marines become front-and-center focus rather than background caricatures. A cross between INDEPENDENCE DAY and 2001's BLACK HAWK DOWN, this Los Angeles-set alien invasion thriller has the similarity with SKYLINE in term of its overall execution. Whereas SKYLINE excels fairly good in its special-effects department (especially with its low-budget cost), the movie failed miserably for its clunky plot, poor characterizations and ridiculously over-the-top twist finale. By contrast, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is a muscular action-packed movie that packed a few wallops and then some.

The story quickly gets underway when the Earth is suddenly invaded by unknown force in the form of raining meteors across 12 major cities within a short period of time. Whereas almost all major cities are completely wasted, the U.S. Marines are determined they will fight until the very end to defend Los Angeles at any means necessary. So 2nd Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) is put in charge to set forth into the war-torn streets of Los Angeles to battle against the otherworldly alien creatures. Among the Marines in his platoon are gruff Staff Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), Cpl. Jason Lockett (Cory Hardrict), Cpl. Nick Stavrou (Gino Anthony Pesi), Cpl. Kevin Harris (Ne-Yo), LCpl. Steven Mottola (James Hiroyuki Liao) and Corpsman Jibril Adukwu (Adetokumboh M'Cormack). During their subsequent ground battle, they join forces with three surviving civilians including Michele (Bridget Moynahan), Joe Rincon (Michael Pena) and his son, Hector (Bryce Cass) along with one of the Marines from different unit, Tech Sgt. Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez). Together, they work together to make their way out of the intended blast zone as quick as possible. And if the Marines manage to lead the civilians into safety zone, they might have their shot to bring down the alien's command center in an effort to save humankind.

Chris Bertolini's screenplay is chock full of cliches from left and right. No doubt the plot is flimsy at best, since the movie is essentially an action picture front and center. In fact, the movie works like a video-game that recalls something out of CALL OF DUTY-like vibe where soldiers are advancing from level after level of difficulty. It's really nothing wrong with that single-minded approach, especially since director Jonathan Liebesman knows well how to sustain a consistent pace throughout the movie. While the usage of shaky-cam effect has become too much of a weary cliches, the particular style is well-intended here as it gives the necessary gritty realism of a wartime documentary-like feel. The action, in the meantime, are high-octane and relentless enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Among the highlights are the scene where Nantz tries to lure the alien ship to the petrol station by placing the radio in one of the pumps before eventually blowing them off with a grenade; the explosive bridge battle; and the finale where the Marines are trying to take down the alien's command center. Completing the intensity of the picture are the seamless special effects (especially during the daylight battle against the aliens in the middle of the war-torn Los Angeles city), the deafeningly realistic sound effects as well as Brian Tyler's often engaging score.

The cast, though essentially stereotypes, are surprisingly credible. Aaron Eckhart is especially good, with his genuinely intense performance as Staff Sgt. Nantz. His portrayal is certainly heartfelt as well, in an emotional scene where he encounters one of the disgruntled Marines about how it is felt to live in a past with painful memories.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES isn't a masterpiece by any means, but this is the kind of cliched-ridden genre picture that does the execution succeed in a reasonably entertaining manner.

No comments: