A horrific and brilliant battle scene
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The best part of the new drama “The Outpost” is also the worst: the bloody Battle of Kamdesh.
A 40-minute re-creation of what was one of the Afghanistan war’s deadliest confrontations, the tremendous scene is filmed with an uncompromising dedication to the horrors of war by director Rod Lurie. Characters we’ve grown to like are killed coldly and without the heroic fanfare of, say, “Band of Brothers” or “Saving Private Ryan.”
Your eyes are glued to the realistic ugliness.
In 2009, Combat Outpost Keating was positioned perilously close to Taliban forces, in the sandy hills of Afghanistan, and vulnerable to attack. Loss of life was inevitable and the government knew as much, but still, our men and women in uniform were not given the support they needed to survive a large scale ambush.
One arrived with Kamdesh when 400 Taliban fighters let loose on about 50 Americans days before the outpost was to be disbanded. Eight Americans were killed and 27 were wounded. The US later destroyed the base, and two Medals of Honor were awarded in the aftermath.
The film’s first hour is the usual frat-bro antics broken up by enemy fire. The guys are joking one moment and ducking for cover the next. The actors are somewhat indistinguishable from one another at this point but form a believable unit despite their star wattage. As Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha and CPT. Robert Yllescas, there’s Scott Eastwood and Milo Gibson, Mel’s son. Orlando Bloom, with solidly American hard “R”s, plays First Lt. Benjamin Keating.
But everyone comes out of their shells during the harrowing battle sequence, especially the exceptional Caleb Landry Jones as Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, an imperiled soldier who rises to the occasion to rescue his compatriot amid a barrage of bullets and swirling dust. Over about 15 minutes Jones, with pain oozing from his eyes, far outshines his bigger name co-stars and gives one of the most scorching performances of the year.
The dialogue is what it is. Although surely realistic, there are enough F-bombs to fill America’s wartime arsenal. One line: “F - - k, f - - k, f - - k, f - - k, f - - k, f - - k, f - - k.”
That said, “The Outpost” really is not a movie of wit or soaring inspirational speeches, but of no-holds-barred emotion. A story of young men in their 20s, with dreams and loved ones back home, who had the courage to risk it all for each other.
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