The Outpost Movie Review: Rod Lurie's Riveting Film Documents Valor at War

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As so many of our holidays go unrecognized this year and our culture rages with what it means to be American, we have The Outpost to remind us of the heroism of everyday men at war.

Historically, thinking of war lends itself to the all-out battle-laden versions of the World Wars, the Civil War, or the Viet Nam War, or the Korean War.

By contrast, a lot of soldiers who have been deployed over the last 25 years are often expected to suck it up and get over it.

The Outpost Movie Poster

With The Outpost, director Rod Lurie and no doubt Jake Tapper, the author of the book on which this film is based, shines a light on soldiers of the 21st century, their heroism, and what they're expected to endure, even if only because leaders make bad decisions.

Launched in 2001, the War in Afghanistan is still raging today, but hopefully, its bloodiest battles are behind us.

The Outpost details the Battle of Kamdesh, which is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and events leading up to it.

Combat Outposts, or COPs, were established in 2006 to stop the influx of weapons and insurgents from Pakistan into Afghanistan. The idea was that our soldiers would connect with the locals and work together to stop the insurgency and keep the locals safe.

Scott Eastwood in The Outpost

PRT Kamdesh was situated in a deep valley 20 miles away from Wanat, the bloodiest battle of the war before Kamdesh.

Steep walls of the Hindu Kush Mountains made the outpost incredibly vulnerable, and poor leadership decisions ultimately led to a battle between soldier and the Taliban that left eight dead, over a dozen gravely injured, and resulted in the destruction of the then renamed COP Keating.

A graduate of West Point and a former Army air defense artillery officer, Lurie makes The Outpost an immersive experience. He understands and respects a soldier's life and his direction puts viewers right into that valley with the enlisted men.

Experience outside of the outpost is used sparsely in the film, driving home the remoteness of their location and their confinement within the high, anxiety-inducing walls of the valley.

Rod Lurie Directs The Outpost

While the circumstances are God-awful, Lurie doesn't negate the simpler moments of life at COP Keating. From the soldiers arriving and getting acquainted to a soldier's love for a dog on the base, he deftly reveals how men so isolated and dependent upon one another create lasting bonds that will mean everything in heat of battle.

They laugh together and argue with one another and make fun of each other resulting in relationships about as close as men who wouldn't otherwise be friends could ever be.

Lurie keeps viewers on their toes with the equivalent of AHA moments, as soldiers letting down their guards is often an indication that shit is about to hit the fan. It's not a formula, by any means, as just like war, you never know what's around the next corner.

The cast, led by Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, and Caleb Landry Jones features a lot of lesser-known talent, and there is even a survivor of the battle playing himself, which certainly lends some gravitas to the endeavor.

Surviving the Battle

There is also an informative and heartfelt afterward as the credits roll featuring the living soldiers chatting about their fallen comrades and what it means to revisit what is probably the single worst experience of their lives.

The October 3, 2009 battle lasted about 12 hours, and about half of the movie focuses on the COP's efforts to ward off the Taliban and make it out alive. Lurie doesn't shy away from the brutality, and rightfully so.

That day, more than 250 Taliban descended onto the COP which housed fewer than 60 U.S. Soldiers.

And while there are three recognizable actors present, just like the battle itself, The Outpost is a true ensemble piece.

The Outpost Soldiers

Lurie's direction ensures viewers get a good understanding that everyone in that valley was essential to the success of their operation and that the smallest mistake could make the difference between life and death.

It's not life and death amongst the cast, but every character is given the respect their real-life counterpart is due, and it pays off.

Out of the battle came a plethora of medals, including 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals with V devices for valor, three Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars with V devices, and nine Silver Stars. One soldier also received the Medal of Honor.

While the outposts sounded good in theory, allowing any COP to be as vulnerable as COP Keating was a recipe for disaster.

Orlando Bloom in The Outpost

It's hard not to imagine what the COPs encountered is coming to US soil, as they were tasked with both connecting with the locals and creating a bridge between two worlds and upholding the safety of the overall region with acts of aggression. It is war, after all.

With police forces under fire in 2020, we can only hope reimagining what they mean to the community will be done with more care than was taken by the military during The War In Afghanistan War as they tried to address two entirely different issues with the same men.

Early in the movie, the latest arrivals to the outpost are joking about freedom, making light of the saying that "freedom isn't free," but The Outpost drives that point home through the courageous efforts of fewer than 60 men who looked out for each other and their base under the most perilous of circumstances.

A moving and honest depiction of an American tragedy and the men whose valor diverted an even more calamitous ending, The Outpost is perfectly suited for release in theaters and on VOD this Independence Day weekend.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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