Battle Los Angeles (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1217613/
sci-fi action thriller
The morning after Marine Staff Sergeant Nantz submitted his retirement paperwork a cluster of previously undetected meteors hits Earth. The meteors tend to hit in small clusters off the coast of multiple countries, about 10 miles out from their major population centers. Then the aliens show up and start systematically killing folks. The Earth has been invaded and is at war.We follow Nantz and the unit he was assigned to as they try to extract remaining civilians from the 'buffer zone' in Los Angeles before the whole area is bombed.
The film has quite a cast of decent actors including Aaron Eckhart as Nantz. Eckhart played Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. He's that actor that looks sort of like Thomas Jane but isn't. I swear those guys are interchangeable. Michelle Rodriguez is in this, as is Bridget Moynahan. You might also recognize Michael Peña or Adetokumboh M'Cormack - he was Yemi on Lost, and Tuko in Heroes. Also got a kick out of seeing Jim Parrack in this one -- he's the guy that plays Hoyt on HBO's True Blood.
The film doesn't waste much time - it does a little bit of establishing the Nantz character and some of his background, introduces you to his squad members, then we're all thrown into the thick of things as the make their way to an LA police station to escort some civilians out to an evac site. After that the tension keeps ratcheting up as they have to fight their way back out of the area. Lots of explosions, gunfire, plenty of effects shots, stunts, etc. Sci-fi-ey, action-ey, and thriller-ey.
One thing I really liked was how the alien ships flew -- they had little jets blastin from different spots to maintain level, to hover, etc. It didn't look like 'mysterious alien force' keeping them aloft. Another thing I liked was that the human's weapons were actually effective. Sure they may have had some troubles, but at least there wasn't, again, 'mysterious alien force' in play to render everything ineffective. These two things open up a bunch of ways humans can defend, strike back, etc. without having to rely on deus ex machina solutions (or Independence Day's cheesy computer virus solution).
Before watching the film I anticipated something like a world war II movie style set against extraterrestrial invaders, I wasn't expecting a deep emotionally connected film with stunning dialog. That's pretty much what I got out of the film too - what I expected. I was entertained. Is it like other invasion films or other war films? Sure, not a whole lot that's new in the film. But it didn't bother me that was the case. Seriously - how many times can someone rehash extraterrestrial invasion films without recycling what's been done by someone in some previous similarly themed film? At this point it comes down to convincingly telling a story without a lot of cheating.
I'm not sure what the large amount of negative critic reaction to this film was about. It didn't seem to promise anything more than it delivered, it had a capable cast, decent enough story line, some slight depth for the major player and not a whole lot for everyone else, some make it, some don't. The film was still more enjoyable than Skyline was for me. Less funny, though. I think Skyline was naturally funny in how bad it got at times. I guess for me it gave me as much or slightly more than I was expecting, even though I wasn't expecting that much to begin with.
I suppose this film could be considered as watching the point of view of a military unit during an extraterrestrial invasion, instead of just seeing them in the background on the War of the Worlds remake or Skyline or basically any other alien invasion film that just puts the military in as ineffective scenery. Effects are done well, characterizations are consistent, high action with small breathers in between.
Not a must-see, but not a waste of your movie watching time either. Easily fits in to satisfy your action or alien-invasion movie watching wants.
Either I liked the film or that week or so off I took from film watching reset my film snark centers. But I doubt that. I did watch The Rite before I watched Battle Los Angeles, even though I'm reviewing it after.
Edit: May 2012
Starz was running this flick and I decided to give it another watch. It is still an enjoyable film and made a good re-watch film. I almost liked it better the second time.