Posts Tagged 'Sci-fi action'

Battle: Los Angeles

Details: 2011, USA, Cert 12A, 116 mins, Dir: Jonathan Liebesman

With: Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan, Cory Hardrict, Gino Anthony Pesi, Michael Pena, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez

Welcome to Battle: Los Angeles, the biggest TV movie of the year. It succeeds in brief excitement, the warfare feels authentic, but it fails to leave a mark. The success of action movies often reside in their flashes of abiding imagery. Those moments which leave an indelible memory. One tends to think of Superman Returns, where our hero floats to Earth like a fallen angel, or the water ominously trembling in Jurassic Park, and the 30s King Kong, his stop-motion stutter aping the arms of a baby playing with wooden blocks.

Aaron Eckhart as Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz in Battle: Los Angeles

The best of them thrill to taut direction and play with cliché, such as the lean punch of Speed, or the ascending stages of ship-bound Under Siege, in which Steven Segal’s eyes held you like a bird in his palm, even when faced with a knife-wielding Tommy Lee Jones.

That they often have popcorn thin plots is irrelevant and this time the excuse for explosive revelry is aliens. We follow veteran US marine Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) joining a team of younger marines. They get choppered in to downtown LA to fend off those pesky invaders while evacuating civilians in preparation for a city-wide bombing.

South African Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness falls, The Ring) directs and the influence of countryman Niell Blomkamp’s District 9 is not lost on him. The camera has that jittery documentary feel, while the numerous captions introducing characters and counting down times gives it the feel of one of those misguided TV mini-series about some imminent catastrophe.

Liebesman freely steals from all sources, a newscaster announces “The world is at war”, a nod to the novel from which this genre sprang, the close cameras and first-person viewpoints gives the action videogame drama; the Call of Duty street battles were certainly the most stimulating. He even remembers the nice moment from Saving Private Ryan, when Tom Hanks uses some bubblegum to attach a mirror to a bayonet, only this time he has our hero tying shoelaces.

"The success of action movies often reside in their flashes of abiding imagery". A scene from Superman Returns (2006)

The aliens as ever are merely puppets, even shallower than the Independence Day marauders, of which this film is most reminiscent. Aaron Eckhart’s lined face makes the battle fatigue more wearisome. Viewers can only take so much bang and crash. Michelle Rodriguez again plays a tough-girl part while Ne-Yo surprises as a questioning marine.

The speeches are terrible, the big one, in which Eckhart rouses his troops seems to have been inspired by an accountant in its repetition of serial numbers, while the climax is basically about destroying a giant air traffic control office. In its non-stop combat, its brief sketches of character – the bantering black and white brothers, the pale rookie – Battle: Los Angeles is pretty much Black Hawk Down but with aliens.

Battle: Los Angele - 2.5/5


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