Saturday, August 8, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Outpost

The Outpost
directed by Rod Lurie
This is a war movie based on a non-fiction book by Jake Tapper that details the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh between Afghanistan Taliban forces and US Army forces. 

If you are into war movies you will like this film, no doubt. If you are not into war movies, this film won't really be your cup of tea. 

That said although there is violence aplenty, a great deal of the film details the boredom and frustration of the isolated American soldiers, the stress they feel and their distaste for what appear to be foolish or even contradictory orders. But orders are orders. 

The US brain trust at the time apparently felt that it needed to have a lighter touch in Afghanistan while simultaneously maintaining the ability to respond quickly and decisively to Taliban activity. That might have been a good idea, strategically. But the implementation of that went wrong at Combat Outpost Keating.

One of the stated objectives of the troop at Combat Outpost Keating was to engage the local population in community building and thus turn the locals against the Taliban. The other objective was to kill Taliban. These two goals could occasionally be in conflict since many of the locals were Taliban or at least sympathetic to Taliban. 

Another problem that the soldiers at Combat Outpost Keating faced was structural. Instead of controlling the high ground, the outpost was built at the bottom of numerous hills and mountains.

Additionally the men did not routinely perform daily and nightly patrols to keep an eye on possible enemy movements. There wasn't any defensive perimeter set up. The men don't have any aerial reconnaissance reports. 

They must rely on an Afghan informer/translator, who has been wrong before so often that few Americans now take him seriously. So in other words a determined enemy can quickly surround the American base before the Americans even know that they're there.

Other than a few mortars, an armored personnel carrier, and some locked away ordnance, the men lacked readily available heavy weapons.

Lastly some team members suspected that some of the officers assigned to command were just playing out the string, hoping to be transferred elsewhere to some place where they had more opportunities for promotion. It's both confirmed and denied that the base will be closing soon. Taliban fighters routinely take potshots at US soldiers. 

Although the faces all kind of blur together once the stuff hits the fan, this movie has a few standout performances delivered by the sons of hollywood and entertainment royalty. 

Most specifically I am thinking of Scott Eastwood as Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha, who not only is the spitting image of his father but also invokes his guttural growl and iconic grimace and Milo Gibson as the determined Captain Robert Yllescas. 

Orlando Bloom is the loyal and idealistic Lieutenant Benjamin Keating. Cory Hardrict is Sergeant Vernon Martin, who doesn't suffer fools lightly. Kwame Patterson is Captain Sylvanius Broward, whose high handed attitude and seeming caution make some men dislike him. Caleb Landry Jones is Specialist Ty Carter. Carter has a gift for often saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Some of the people who actually fought in the battle appear in the film, either as cameos or as themselves. I got a strong "you were there" vibe to this movie, right down to detailing how soldiers dispose of their body waste. Some veterans said this film was realistic. Everything is chaotic. People are shooting at you from all directions, other people are yelling orders and things are blowing up around you. 

The soldiers do the best they can and give a ferocious account of themselves. Your disdain will be reserved for the higher ups who thought it was a good idea to put a base in an almost indefensible position. This was a good movie that ran for about two hours.
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