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Battle: Los Angeles - Review

Battle: Los Angeles

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

AN EYE-catching marketing campaign and an interesting take on the genre meant that Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle: Los Angeles rated among the more anticipated alien invasion movies of recent years. But while good, it still underwhelms.

Shot from the point of view of a platoon of US Marines and, in particular, Aaron Eckhart’s war-weary, guilt-stricken Staff Sergeant Nantz, the film plunges viewers into the middle of an alien invasion and the battle for LA (and the world) that ensues.

As ever, the aliens have colonization in mind (this time for Earth’s surface water) and, once again, it comes down to a small group of survivors to try and save the day.

Liebesman’s decision to focus this fightback on a group of Marines certainly makes for a novel approach in the post 9/11 world, particularly given the divisive views of the country’s ongoing military action in Afghanistan.

But his direction is extremely jingoistic and more in keeping with the gung-ho military rhetoric and kinetic visual approach of Black Hawk Down than the sharper mix of thrills and intelligence offered by District 9.

Indeed, Liebesman’s extra terrestrials have little to do but destroy mankind and provide cannon fodder for the troops.

None of this would have mattered as much had Lieberman offered some form of genuine emotional investment but it’s hard to separate his characters from the cliches they represent.

Eckhart’s character, for instance, is the usual mix of kick-ass athlete and conflicted hero, but at least he has the acting chops to make it believable.

But others around him flounder… partly because Chris Bertolini’s script doesn’t enable them to rise above the obvious stereotypes – from arrogant young leader heading for a crisis of confidence to soon-to-be-married grunt – and more often because Lieberman’s camera work often makes it difficult to see what is going on or who has died.

In spite of all this, however, Battle: Los Angeles somehow avoids becoming a complete write-off. The effects are impressive, the set pieces often exciting and the look and feel of proceedings suitably authentic.

So, if you’re prepared to go with the pro-Marine flow (it is an excellent recruitment campaign for the US military) there’s still enough to enjoy about this sci-fi/war movie hybrid, particularly if you get your kicks from computer game shoot-em-ups. Whoo-rah!

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 117mins
UK Release Date: March 11, 2011