Staff Sargent Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is retiring after 20 years, and according to his superior officer has had to make some tough decisions out there… but Nantz knows the score, he’s aging and being a Marine is a young man’s job. If that sounds cliche, it is. Much of Battle: Los Angeles is a by the book alien invasion/disaster movie fare… but instead of being cliche with a knowing wink and nod, it owns what it is… and that makes all the difference in the world.
We are immediately thrust into an epic urban battlefield knowing almost nothing about the enemy. Arriving in what we (humans) believe to be meteors, aliens begin a brutal and powerful attack in multiple locations worldwide. We don’t know what they are, why they are here or how to kill them… focusing on one group of Marines as they head off to rescue a group of civilians hunkering down in a police station in the middle of a bombed out and evacuated Los Angeles, we get to know more about Nantz’s backstory and the other men in his company. Taking a backseat to a “fresh out of the academy” lieutenant, it is clear very early on that this movie is Eckhart’s. And frankly, that man can command a screen. All other performances pale anytime they share the screen with Eckhart.
Explosions abound… shit blows up… some super tough guy testosterone-fests occur… Michelle Rodriquez shows up eventually as an Air Force Tech Sargent, out of her element in combat… Bridget Moynahan is one of the five civilians… and the movie is constantly on the move with the rare and brief respite for a bit of exposition and character development. In time, our rag-tag group of Marines and civilians show their mettle and begin figuring out how to fight these space invaders and show up the entire U.S…. nay, world militaries… by being the best damn Marines they can be!! For as much as it owns it’s own cliche, it’s also a straight up recruitment poster for the Marines. Not in an objectionable pandering way… but in a, ‘Hell yeah… Aaron Eckhart is a bad ass!” sort of way.
Honestly, I really enjoyed this movie. At times it seemed like a big screen video game… but is also felt like a nice blend of Independence Day and Black Hawk Down with hints of District 9. For as straight forward as the story is… and for all the cliches used throughout, I am happy to say that the aliens are killable, and there are no force fields or other sci-fi canards that render them invulnerable. They are not on Earth for something like “unobtainium” and are not killed by water/common cold/love. They are an invasion force with a space military. We don’t talk to them and we don’t try to. Early in the movie some roughneck give the order to kill anything that isn’t human… that about sums it up.
If you are in the mood for some pure-escapist-blowing-shit-up-military-vs.-E.T.-macho-tough-fest, then by all means, satiate that need and go out and spend two hours on the edge of your seat for a well paced nerve pumping energy drink of a movie.
Cornelius J. Blahg