Columbia Pictures seemed to be taking a chance by using a young, unproven director in Jonathan Liebesman to create a movie that would tell a very unique science fiction story without the help of any big name, box office stars. Utilizing a raw, documentary-like film making style to show how a single military squad would perform during an alien invasion, Battle Los Angeles attempts to take viewers right in to the middle of dramatic moments and intense battle scenes.
Several months before the movie's release, I saw the first teaser trailer for Battle Los Angeles and was immediately impressed. Sure, trailers can be made to make any movie look amazing, but this one had a lot of the things I had been looking for from the science fiction genre and this trailer packs an even bigger punch by adding Johann Johannsson's haunting "The Sun's Gone Dim And The Sky's Turned Black".
Check it out here and you'll see what I mean.
In the movie, Aaron Eckhart plays Ssgt. Michael Nantz who has just turned in his discharge paperwork and is fulfilling his final duties as an active duty Marine. More than anything, Nantz seems ready to leave behind the physical and emotional pain of one particular mission that has left himself and his reputation permanently scarred. When some unusual reports of meteors hitting earth's atmosphere causes a general evacuation of the LA county coastline, the retiring Staff Sergeant is called back in and placed with a platoon to help rescue civilians.
As each platoon is given their orders, it becomes clear that this mission involves much more than rocks falling from the sky as the incoming projectiles clearly have specific targeted locations. Around the world, all major cities instantly fall under attack by an alien force that is more powerful and technologically superior to anything the human race can throw back at them. Losing ground by the minute, The United States military decides to take a stand to protect L.A. at all costs and Nantz's platoon is placed right in to the middle of the heaviest action.
I suppose anyone's first thought when it comes to an alien invasion movie would be something like Independence Day with huge action sequences, crazy special effects, big explosions, and personalities that are just as high powered as the guns they are shooting. From the opening scenes, you realize very quickly that Battle Los Angeles is absolutely not that movie. This movie is much smaller in scale although it does provide just as much action and ramps up the intensity to "grab the edge of your seat" levels throughout the entire film.
Liebesman's direction keeps the action going and, as an audience member, you feel the same sense of urgency that the soldier's are feeling as they try to complete their mission. What really sells the action is how real all of the aliens and their various vehicles and weapons look. There's never any point where you're thinking about the CGI and the action sequences never go off in to the realm of being realistically unachievable for the soldiers to pull off. Eckhart is great in the lead role and is complemented nicely by a roster of dependable so-stars that includes Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Peña, and Ramon Rodriguez.
Battle Los Angeles to me was very satisfying and gave me hope that we might get to see more movies like it and hopefully even a sequel or two down the road. Hollywood needs to be willing to take risks on good, quality stories like this one even though it doesn't fall in to the cookie cutter formula for blockbuster success. Even without a big movie star name to headline the marquee, or an outrageous budget to work with, Liebesman still manages to make a movie that will blow you away and leaves you feeling like you were just as much a part of the action as Staff Sergeant Nantz and his fellow soldiers.