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The Outpost (2020)  rating

Review: written August 2021

An exhausting watch – for all the right reasons

The Outpost (2020)

Scroll through available choices on any streaming service and it’s not hard to find some war movies, many of them ‘based on a true story’. Often, the scale, budget, imagination or level of exploitation can leave the experience underwhelming and everything looking rather similar in tone and execution. The same cannot be said about director Rod Lurie’s “The Outpost”, which uses Jake Tapper’s book on the Kamdesh War as its source material. Lurie’s movie seems to follow some apparently well worn tropes.. men in difficult-to-defend outpost find themselves in the run up to an all-out attack by the enemy (in this case the Taliban) on their position. However, this really is lifted above the level that such a summary might suggest, by being all at once intelligent, gripping, exhausting and respectful.

Orlanda Bloom gets significant billing, but isn’t the star – rather this is a true ensemble piece, with the less well known cast lending a sense of realism. There’s a sense that the camp, and the behaviour of the troops in it are authentically portrayed – warts and all – neither judging or praising, but seemingly respectful to the true nature of army life, and the events portrayed.

The Outpost (2020)

This doesn’t result in stereotyped characters to help you remember who’s who, but manages to do justice to the whole team, developing rounded and believable people. When the characters rise to the occasion, or fall apart – sometimes both – we feel it personally, because by then we’re invested in them. When the action comes, we feel the stress of it keenly, and perhaps more importantly when there is no shooting or explosions – we still feel the expectation of something to come, thanks to some unsettlingly roving camerawork, which changes its point of view continually in such a way as to help you get the nagging feeling that anything could – and often does- happen, at the least likely moment. Even the sit down sessions with the tribal leaders do not pander to expectations, but nonetheless leave you with an inkling of that nagging feeling of uncertainty that the soldiers must have felt.

In short, it can be hard to be impressed by a movie which looks like a testosterone fuelled glorification of war, often piling on action at the expense of actual tension. Looks, though, are deceiving – this movie is an exhausting watch, for all the right reasons, and probably the best war movie you will see this year.

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