Tuesday, 22 March 2011

'Battle: Los Angeles' Review

'Battle: Los Angeles' (dir: Jonathan Liebesman, 2011), Cert: 12A

To say genre pieces get a battering from critics is an understatement, and the next picture in the firing line is Jonathan Liebesman’s ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ or ‘Battle: LA’ for short. Critics around the globe have torn this picture to shreds and with each review come new problems. After being blown away by the picture’s dramatic and breathtaking trailer, I was deeply excited for this film, so I ignored the critics and went to see if it really was that ‘bad’ or if like usual, they have just gone to town on a blockbuster.
 Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has worked for the US Marines for the majority of his life. After being given the approval for retirement, he looks forward to an easier and more relaxed life. When reports of sudden meteor showers start appearing across the media, emergency evacuation is placed and the military are sent out into the field to help civilians to safety. However, these are no meteors; they are actually a breed of alien soldiers who have come to take over Los Angeles. Nantz is brought back into the field and with the help of 2nd Lieutenant William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), he must lead his men into a gigantic battle between man and machine.
 There is absolutely no doubt that this is a genre film. It’s a Sci-Fi Action picture; nothing more, nothing less. Yes it’s completely ridden with clich├ęs, yes it’s hardly original or different, and yes it is a CGI mega-fest, but actually, ‘Battle: LA’ is a really gripping, immensely powerful and eye-bursting cinematic spectacle that sinks it’s robotic hooks into your flesh straight from the start and fails to let you go. I might be bias because I love Sci-FI and Action films, but this really is one of the most extraordinary visual experiences I’ve seen for ages. Liebesman’s direction is flawless, its action is marvellous and its cinematography was outstanding.
 I can understand why people have had problems with this movie; it’s pretty long, standing at 116 minutes and it has more explosions, pyrotechnics and shaky camera movements than a fireworks party with the ‘Transformers’, but those looking for a stupidly exciting, over-the-top and jaw-dropping optical feast, go grab your ticket for this film now. My problem with ‘respected’ critics is their inability to switch off the academic function in their brains and actually watch a film for it’s audio-visual appeal, to watch a film based only on it’s entertainment factor, because we all know that’s the main thing film and cinema is supposed to be. ‘Battle: LA’ is not trying to be a Shakespearian tragedy or a psycho-analytical study of modern American politics and society, it’s supposed to be about a group of Marines with mountains of ammo shooting the living daylights out of robotic alien invaders for nearly two hours. This film doesn’t try to breach out to the ‘upper-class’ viewer whose idea of entertainment is a trip to the Louvre or a visit to the Royal Opera House, ‘Battle: LA’ wants to entertain regular popcorn audiences who like a bit of mindless escapism, and I think I speak for the majority when I say we all enjoy that. I adore world cinema, I adore art-house and independent film productions; I love all the films that broadsheet critics pine for, but I also love movies like this; films that are made for one sole purpose; to entertain, and ‘Battle: LA’ didn’t just entertain me, it blew me away.
Still from 'Battle: Los Angeles' (dir: Jonathan Liebesman, 2011)
 However to say this film only works because of its visuals is unfair, if you look past all the flying debris and rifle shells, there is actually a pretty decent narrative that runs throughout and contains two particular moments which are incredibly moving. Its cast works very well with the script content they are given and handle the dialogue with the mental action with ease. Eckhart is great as Nantz; his chiselled features make a nice contrast between his appearance and character. This was a great role choice for him. Michelle Rodriguez, the face of modern female action is also great as Sergeant Elena Santos, and even though she’s completely in her comfort zone here, she’s always great fun to watch. The rest of the supporting cast also give solid performances.
 ‘Battle: LA’ has certainly split audiences, and it seems that some clearly favour towards certain film critics, but as a critic myself, I think it’s fair to say there is an obvious bias towards genre pictures in the film criticism world.  I’m certain many writers turn their noses up at films like these and pre-judge them hugely before seeing them, thus making the experience of watching them seem dull and uninteresting which supports their argument. I think this is wrong and unjust; you should critique a film on all its merits, not on your personal feelings and opinions towards certain types of cinema. I originally had high hopes for this film and I’m glad I kept them because when I came out of the screening, not only were those hopes met, they had totally raised the bar. This is how you make a Sci-Fi Action film. I absolutely, completely and utterly adored it; I’m pretty sure it’ll turn up on my top 10 films of the year and if when reading this it seems like I’m sticking two fingers up to certain critics, then maybe I am. Regardless of your interests and your ideas about this film, forget them and go see it now.

White knuckle, high octane cinematic madness. A film that you won’t forget you’ve seen and will want to see again. The quote “Always outnumbered, never outgunned” should have been the tagline.
By Chris Haydon

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