GENRE: Shooting aliens with guns
THE PITCH: Aaron Eckhart plays Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz who defers his retirement — really — to lead a platoon against a shock-and-awe invasion from extraterrestrials wreaking havoc in Santa Monica.
MONEY SHOTS: Otherworldly weapons explode with giant smoke rings. Creepy news footage of the half-seen aliens proves scarier than the subsequent close-ups. Nantz booby-traps an enemy aircraft at a gas station. A curious alien picks up a hand grenade — BOOM! Nantz and his Marines lead a last-ditch mission against the E.T. "command and control" center.
BEST LINE: "Either of you know how to hot-wire a bus?" "Stavrou can. He's from Jersey, sir."
WORST LINE: "We had to make some tough calls, Mike. Especially that last one." The script deploys the foreshadowing early on.
MOST ON-THE-NOSE LINE: "That was some real John Wayne shit," one of the Marines says after Nantz displays some heroism. (See, kids, John Wayne made lots of war movies before winning an Oscar for the role that Jeff Bridges played in True Grit.)
BIGGEST GROSS-OUT: One of most cleverly icky scenes finds Nantz and a civilian veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan) stabbing different parts of a wounded alien to find its vulnerable spots. It's like the game Operation in reverse.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Requisite CNN and MSNBC footage sets up global alien incursions and expert speculation about their motives. A soldier chats with a hometown beauty on Skype. Santa Monica street signage promotes the Ocean Lounge, Landshark Lager and even includes a "Support Our Troops" poster, which may or may not be ironic.
OH, "REALLY:" Director Jonathan Liebesman relies on titles to identify the largely interchangeable characters and their location. At one point the words read, "Two hours and 47 minutes until 'Bomb Drop'," but since that refers to a literal bomb drop, do they really need the quotes? Someone should notify the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks."
ATLANTA, REPRESENT: E. Roger Mitchell, Creative Loafing's Critic Pick for Atlanta's Best Actor of 2010 gets a good scene briefing the troops about the parameters of their movie-spanning mission.
POLITICAL SUBTEXT? The Battle: Los Angeles script avoids big ideas and resists the interpretation as a metaphor for the Afghan or Iraq Wars. Primarily it celebrates the sacrifice and professionalism of the U.S. military, so it comes across as a very expensive, two-hour Armed Services recruitment film.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Like an imitation of Black Hawk Down with an alien expansion back, Battle: Los Angeles focuses exclusively on the experience of the ground troops, which includes a compelling tactical approach to finding alien weaknesses, adjusting the goals of their mission and other credible details. But the film has no more character development than the average Call of Duty video game, which at least gives the consumer the chance to pull the trigger.
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