In Brief: Combat Outpost Keating and 53 U.S. soldiers battling 400 Taliban. The soldiers won but at a huge cost.
On October 3, 2009, 400 Taliban swarmed down on Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan and took on 53 U.S. soldiers. It was a deadly confrontation that left eight men dead and several other soldiers wounded.
The Outpost is their story and what led up to the attack.
Here’s what’s sad about what was the largest number of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. There is no reason on Earth for those soldiers to have been there in the first place. In the investigation after the fact, the army admitted that having an outpost a few miles from the Pakistan border, at the bottom of a ravine, and surrounded by mountains made no sense.
What the military won’t do — probably because politicians won’t let it — is admit that when fired upon by the enemy, soldiers ought to be able to instantly fire back instead of having to radio to a command center in another part of the country and prove they are under attack.
These subjects, and the incompetence of military leadership in this instance, is brought up a couple of times. These are topics that need to be heard and the film does a good job of bringing them to light.
The Outpost stars Clint’s kid, Scott Eastwood (Pacific Rim: Uprising), Pirates of the Caribbean’s Orlando Bloom, Get Out’s Caleb Landry Jones, Mel’s son, Milo Gibson and a bunch of lesser known actors.
Eastwood is in his mid-30s and looks eerily like his father at that age. He also has a similar less-is-more acting style. Eastwood says little but has charisma in spades. It is that charisma that helps him outshine any actor in any of his scenes. He’s also very believable as Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha whose actions during the battle saved the day.
Also very good is Bloom who — with this part — does a great job of distancing himself from four Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit flicks.
As good as they and their cast mates are, no one tops the acting of Jones who plays Staff Sgt. Ty Carter.
The extraordinary bravery of Carter as portrayed by Jones is the highlight of director Rod Lurie’s movie. It is found in the middle of the attack action sequences. Jones’ performance is intense times 10. He is just nail-biting good and this is the best supporting actor performance I’ve seen all year.
If nothing else, you should see the movie for that performance alone.
Lurie’s action sequences are also nail-biting intense. If you like this kind of movie, the battle scenes are as good as battle scenes get. It’s a pretty intense 45 minutes highlighted by Jones’ amazing, award-worthy acting.
Yes, “The Outpost” is a story that needs telling. However, the one negative of the movie is Lurie trying to fit too many things into a film that runs a couple minutes over two hours. Lurie (The Contender, The Last Castle) and his writers Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy (Patriots Day, The Fighter) never quite get you totally involved with the characters.
Those who regularly read me know that I don’t like movies that are padded for length. In the case of The Outpost I wanted a longer movie that gave me more time to get to know these soldiers and more about their personal lives and their life at Combat Outpost Keating.
In an interview I did this week with Lurie, he said other films about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have showed elite forces at work. He points out that his film is about the average boots on the ground soldier doing what must be done and in a place where that task is almost impossible to accomplish. Lurie does that very well.
There is, other than soldierly grumbling, very little meaningful dialogue until mid-movie. What you get early in the movie — between the Taliban hurling a bomb or two, plenty of flying bullets, or tedious scenes of negotiations with Afghan tribal leaders — is dialogue that has actors ripping off F-bombs galore. While I loved the spirit of the movie, and admire what Lurie is trying to do, what he and the writers miss for most of the movie is the deeper character development that gets you to know and care about these men and their fate. You care about them — of course — but just don’t get to know them well enough.
That is until mid-battle.
In phone calls home just before coming under fire, and then during the battle, you get to know Lockwood’s Romesha and Jones’ Carter and some of the others a little more personally. They are men of courage who — under overwhelming odds and brutal conditions — held off an army.
It also takes a little too long to get to the actual attack and the valiant effort of these men to hold out against impossible odds until the proverbial cavalry arrives 12-hours later.
As a result, and for much of the movie, the actors seem forced to make sense of a script that is based on CNN State of the Union host Jake Tapper’s book. As noted, the story is a good one but with the complex number of characters, and so much going on, it proves that sometimes what make sense in the narrative of a book gets lost when real events are turned into screenplays and then into movies.
Do I recommend The Outpost? Absolutely. While the movie is aimed at the more patriotic among us and those of us loving this kind of film, just seeing what our military has gone through in Afghanistan is important and something that needs to be seen by the masses.
What those brave men did on that day ought never be lost nor forgotten.
Directors: Rod Lurie
Stars: Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, Bobby Lockwood
This is a tough to watch movie about an outpost in Afghanistan and the soldiers who defended it. Movie war sequences are rarely better than what director Rod Lurie does here. If this is your thing, don’t miss The Outpost. Give it a 3 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
You can find The Outpost on a number of streaming sources.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.