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Battle: Los Angeles
Genre Action

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Superman? It's Wednesday - so it must be an alien invasion. Alien invasions have become even more commonplace than UFO sightings in Hollywood. Just over the last few years, there's been a resurgence in alien interest - spurred on by the success of movies like Cloverfield, Transformers, District 9 and Avatar. Although some would also say that the phenomenon never left pop culture with TV series like The X-Files, 4400, Invasion, Roswell and Stargate dotting the time line.

Blame H.G. Wells for writing War of the Worlds or Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space, blame that addictive 1982 Space Invaders arcade game or Neil Armstrong for taking one giant leap for mankind... blame the guys that found that new planet or anyone that dares to remind us just how tiny and insignificant Earth really is... the point is, alien invasions have been done before and never cease to get tired.

There's an endless fascination with beings from outer space, conjured out of our own uncertainty of what lies beyond, which makes the premise of a space race colonizing Earth for its rich natural resources seem quite plausible and increasingly possible. Perhaps that's why we should support the systematic destruction of Earth... whether it be global warming, deforestation, pollution or campaigning against Al Gore's "irritating" truth. Anything to make Earth less attractive to expansive alien nations looking to wipe humanity from history.

Someone said "the next world war will be fought over water" and this is where Battle: Los Angeles positions itself, on the cusp of our own microcosm spilling over into the universe. Battle: LA hits the ground running. The marketing campaign may be reminiscent of films like Cloverfield for its posters and District 9 for its online presence, treating the material from a "this is about to happen" perspective with posters relaying images from other well-documented cases with websites to report threats.

This is also how South African director, Jonathan Liebesman, has treated the film. The gritty, core platoon focus of The Hurt Locker has influenced the style of Battle: Los Angeles. The Hurt Locker created a tense, war-ravaged, realistic account of a man addicted to war. Documentary style camerawork swirled around a squad of soldiers committed to defusing bombs and picking out terrorists. Instead of terrorists, we have aliens in Battle: Los Angeles with a platoon of marines entrusted with a rescue mission that burgeons into an infiltration of enemy operations.

The documentary feel to the action camerawork echoes Cloverfield and Liebesman counterbalances the frenetic with some levelheaded scenes to help establish character. Battle: Los Angeles employs the urban jungle warfare and disaster scenario of Cloverfield together with the scale of Independence Day. The film focuses in on one city in the struggle, but uses news broadcasts to relay the escalation in world domination Roland Emmerich style as major coastal cities fall to the invasion.

Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking, The Dark Knight) leads the charge, despite being a second-in-command staff sergeant on his last day of duty. Eckhart's stoic presence and grim demeanor carry the dramatic weight of this action-intensive film. The war and science-fiction genres may serve as a frame of reference, but the genre mix has a similar effect to Predator... leaning heavily on quick pacing and action sequences. This makes Battle: Los Angeles feel like a day in the life of a marine... combining the exhilaration of first-person shooter video game with a simple action story about uniting against a common enemy without too much star-spangling.

Michelle Rodriguez - the gorgeous, kick-ass soldier babe has now officially been typecast. Flying choppers in Avatar, pistol-whipping in Machete and ripping zombie heads off in Resident Evil... she's that tough fighter girl with very little in the way of competition in Hollywood right now. Bridget Moynahan also lends her credentials to the film as a civilian mother for some emotional interplay, while a bevy of marine actors including: Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict, Ne-Yo and Michael Pena round off the platoon with key performances.

Battle: Los Angeles is an all-out action assault. The film bombards the senses with explosions, alien spacecraft, advanced weaponry, special forces tactics and ground-to-aerial warfare. This movie refreshes the alien invasion theme film by putting you in the boots of a marine, taking you right into the heart of the action as fellow soldiers join the ranks and get taken out by the enemy. Battle: LA is so action-intensive that it actually has to play catch-up halfway, giving you a chance to reflect, gather your senses and connect with the characters as the squad come under new leadership.

The visual effects are excellent. They're not on par with Avatar, but are convincing - keeping the audience at an arm's length... showing just enough to form an idea of what is attacking without enough blunt detail to contaminate the real alien factor for viewers. Liebesman knows how to keep the audience hooked... feeding small bits of information - making it seem like real-time discovery from an unscientific platoon rather than putting everything under the microscope and answering every single question - leaving the playground of the unknown to the imagination.

Battle: Los Angeles is an entertaining alien urban assault, filmed in a gritty documentary style from a marine's perspective and delivered with first-rate visual and special effects. The casting demonstrates the film's intentions from the get-go... making it a cross between a Roland Emmerich scale film like Independence Day and a more intensive, reality war film like Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker.

Battle: LA doesn't purport to be an emotional journey, but rather an experiential action overload incorporating a fine balance of genres, reality vs. fantasy and cast vs. effects. The end result is that this atmospheric alien invasion film is the next best thing to being there. When The Hurt Locker and Avatar locked horns at the Oscars last year, someone had a brainwave... and guess what - it worked!

The bottom line: Gritty.


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