Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez,.
Loud, noisy, and chaotic! Ultimately, Battle: Los Angeles is full of sound and fury, but it amounts to little. This big budget alien invasion movie is a purely visceral experience for adrenaline junkies. Here director Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning, etc) effectively brings a war movie sensibility to the alien invasion genre. The aliens here are more aggressive, more along the lines of War Of The Worlds and the recent Skyline, rather than the recent Monsters with its more benign alien creatures. The basic structure of the rather slim plot from feels more like a video game than a film.
When the film opens we learn that a series of meteors have fallen to Earth near some of the major cities like Paris and New York. These meteors are actually aliens, armed with superior technology and weapons and intent on wiping out civilisation. The US military is about to begin a massive bombing campaign of the Santa Monica area in the hopes of destroying the aliens and their mothership. A small unit of marines is sent in to try and rescue civilians who have taken refuge in the police station. The unit is led by Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a veteran soldier who is battling demons of his recent past and is on the verge of resigning his commission.
Eckhart makes for a convincing action hero, and he lends his authorative presence to what is essentially a one-dimensional role. He is ably supported by Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight, The Fast And The Furious, etc), who is also able to handle action very well. However, given the sketchy characterisations afforded by the screenplay, confusion quickly sets in for the audience. Nor do we particularly care when one of the soldiers is killed because we haven’t had time to empathise with them or identify with them, which is a major failing of the script from writer Christopher Bertolini (The General’s Daughter, etc).
With its series of running pitched battles in an urban centre, the film is reminiscent of Black Hawk Down, in which Ridley Scott impressively captured the chaos and confusion of a war zone. Here Liebesman uses his Texas Chainsaw Massacre cinematographer Lukas Ettlin, and hand held cameras take us into the thick of the action, rather like Cloverfield, which adds to the unsettling feeling. Christian Wagner’s rapid editing style brings a sense of kinetic energy to the material.
Liebesman makes good use of his big budget, all of which can be seen up there on the screen, and the special effects are quite impressive at times. It’s just a pity that he didn’t have stronger material to work with.