Hollywood has already delved into the long war in Afghanistan by showcasing Special Operations units. The film 12 Strong, for example, portrayed the Green Berets in the war’s early days as the U.S. sent the first troops into the country to fight against the Taliban. Zero Dark Thirty was about the raid in Pakistan by Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden, the architect of 9/11.
But The Outpost isn’t about Special Ops. It is about ordinary soldiers that performed extraordinarily well under incredibly difficult circumstances. The men of Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, worked together and performed incredible feats of bravery against overwhelming odds.
The battle at COP Keating resulted in two Medals of Honor being awarded. It was the first time in 50 years that more than one surviving soldier from the same battle is awarded the medal: Both Clint Romesha and Ty Carter were awarded the Medal of Honor after the 53 men whom they were assigned with fought off over 400 Taliban fighters on October 3, 2009. The collective cohesiveness of the unit was a major factor in its success.
Director Rod Lurie does a magnificent job of showing on film how indefensible the base was, nestled in a deep valley surrounded by huge mountains, from where the Taliban routinely would snipe at the troops and fire rockets on occasion. Lurie found a suitable location in Bulgaria to represent the mountains of Afghanistan.
In the film’s first hour, Lurie introduces the unit’s main characters and gives the viewer the first-hand experience and claustrophobic feeling of the base, including some small sniping actions by the Taliban. The entire second half of the film is the climactic battle. The action is very tense, riveting, and transports the viewer like a Call of Duty video game right in the middle of it all. The superb camera angles and shots contribute greatly to that. As a result, the film will have you on the edge of your seat, regardless of the fact that you already know how the battle turns out.
The entire cast gave strong performances which for an ensemble cast in a war film is no small feat. The action sequences were excellently done and the director avoided being carried away — an error that as many war film directors commit.
Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones were both outstanding as SSG Romesha and SP4 Carter respectively. There were times during the film that Eastwood appeared to be a dead ringer for his famous father. His work here stands on its own. All that was missing was some Ennio Morricone music.
Jones is also outstanding. His character, Carter, is the opposite of the cool-under-fire Romesha. He perfectly blends feelings of overwhelming fear, helplessness, and unbelievable courage during the long battle with the Taliban forces.
Orlando Bloom has a smaller role as 1LT Benjamin Keating, who is trying to get his troops through the deployment alive. He knows that the Army realizes its mistake in the placement of the base and intends to close it. But he doesn’t survive long enough to see the battle, as the Troop goes through several commanders.
Lurie is a West Point graduate but doesn’t wrap his film or his characters up in the flag. They are ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events and collectively show the heroism that one would expect in a fictional film. He borrowed a page from Paul Greengrass that cast several soldiers, who had served in Iraq, in his war film Green Zone with Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Jason Issacs, and Amy Ryan. But Lurie took it a step further: He had several of the survivors of COP Keating play themselves, including Daniel Rodriguez who spoke during the end credits.
While watching the movie on the big screen television at home, I immediately regretted that I wasn’t watching it in a theater. It was supposed to have had a theater release, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been held up. I watched it on Amazon Prime.
Nevertheless, take the time and watch “The Outpost.” It highlights everything that is wrong about our forever war, the ridiculous decision to place our troops in such an awful defensive position, and all that we celebrate in our military: the burning desire to persevere and to take care of one another.
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