Battle: Los Angeles

Escapist, explosion filled fun.

Released in 2011, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 13 Aug 2011 by Scott Morris
Battle: LA image

Oh no! Aliens have invaded! The intergalactic visitors plainly have no patience for this E.T. crap and immediately set about killing helpless women and children and puppies and kittens and fluffy bwunny wabbits, firmly establishing them early on as being composed of pure evil, allowing us to get on with the sensible business of killing them right back. None of that boring 'characterisation' or 'empathy' stuff here! We'll leave that to District 9.

The killing is mainly left to Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckart), who was looking forward to packing in this Marine Corps hoo-hah before all hands were called to do the killing to the aliens, with the guns and the tanks and the jets and the sharks and so on. He's assigned to the young squad he was training, and told to escort a group of civilians holed up in a police station to safety before the U.S.A.F. commence Operation Flatten Los Angeles With Bombs And Tings, aiming to kill the aliens setting up their forward base at the cost of the mostly evacuated city.

In between our heroes and their targets are aliens, who are to be killed as much as is possible. This will also involve working out how to kill them, as while not invulnerable they seem somewhat resistant to attempts to kill them with bullets, at least for as long as it is dramatically convenient for that situation to continue, at which point it's dropped like the hottest potato of them all, which coincidentally enough also shares the same bullet resistance that the aliens do towards the later reels.

It will be of no surprise to anyone with a passing familiarity with either war films or science fiction films that Operation Flatten Los Angeles With Bombs And Tings, or Op FLAWBAT, as I hereby christen it, doesn't go quite to plan, and as just about the only set of boots on the ground it's up to our heroes to work out a way to repel the alien menace, Master Chief style.

Battle: Los Angeles does feel a lot like a very extended video game introduction cut scene, and perhaps that there should be some sort of achievement points or trophy awarded for completing it. Regardless, whenever unambiguously evil aliens invade in a movie the inevitable comparisons must be made with Independence Day. While believability is hardly the strong suite of either film, Battle: Los Angeles makes things substantially more interesting by hiding a lot of the details from you. Rather than have everything explained, as best as possible, to some authority figure, the grunts here are given enough details to get on with the immediate task at hand.

Okay, it's hardly cinema verite, but these smaller details do help with the suspension of disbelief thing, and as there's quite a lot of things to disbelieve in here, that can only be a good thing. While, at its core, Battle: Los Angeles isn't much more than an action spectacular cum special effects showreel, there's enough human touches to help us care at least somewhat about the character's struggles to survive the alien onslaught, and in particular the solid, likable and charismatic Aaron Eckart puts in a solid, likable and charismatic performance.

Much like the video games this takes so many cues from, I doubt you could make any solid, convincing arguments that Battle: Los Angeles could be considered high art. You will have much more success convincing people that Battle: Los Angeles, like them there video games, is a lot of escapist, explosion filled fun to entertainingly pass a couple of hours with. Well worth a look in for any action fan.

Jonathan Liebesman
Cast list:
Aaron Eckhart (Sgt. Michael Nantz)
Michelle Rodriguez (TSgt. Elena Santos)
Bridget Moynahan (Michele)
Ramon Rodriguez (2nd Lt. William Martinez)