Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Battle: Los Angeles - Review

I was kinda worried about this one.  Reviews have been mixed to say the least and seeing as it was my first foray to the cinema since The Town I was kind of concerned that I was returning to a dud.

Battle: Los Angeles is flawed, make no mistake, but anyone who's played a first person shooter on a decent console (sorry Wii owners but it has been ages since I had a pop) is going to feel immediately at home.  The plot is pretty minimal.  Aliens invade major cities all over the globe, landing in the sea and then attacking, initially, on foot.  There's very little build up and very little exposition, they turn up, BOOM!

We follow a group of Marines charged with retrieving a small group of civilians stuck in a police station in an area that's about to be carpet bombed by the Americans to clear out the invaders.  The alien design is great, sufficiently creepy to freak you out a little during close encounters and nicely CGI'd into the mess of what was once down town Los Angeles.

The aliens are tough, but killable and this is, to all intents and purposes, a war film with a nice riff on how people react to their land being invaded that I suspect many will miss: roadside and suicide bombs are both used to good effect by the Marines at various point in the movie.

The pace, apart from one misstep of  a scene half way through, is pretty much unrelenting and when the film focuses on the effects and the feel of war on the streets it works brilliantly.  The hand held camera style helping to immerse you as you get up close and personal with the soldiers trying to fight their way out of LA.  Where it fails is in the few scenes where it's dialogue heavy.  Aaron Eckhart puts in a great performance but the script is awful in places, jarring you out of a film that really wants you to feel like this is all so very real.

Some parts were quite an uncomfortable watch following the events in Japan this week, but for the most part this isn't an alien invasion writ large like Independence Day, focusing entirely on a small group rather than going for the big thrills.  The special effects are well done and it doesn't go for the soft option of making things feel more claustrophobic by filming at night until later in the movie and even then it's very brief.

Some of the cheesy one liners are as bad as anything you've heard in previous over the top American disaster movies.  At times it feels like Cloverfield crossed with Armageddon but when they shut up and focus on the 'battle' the film kicks all kind of arse because it's suitably gritty and real.

It maybe a film that was aiming higher than it's hit, but it is a great little ride while it lasts.  The haters will hate it for the lack of a character development and a decent script but to be honest if you're worrying about that when you see this you're probably going to the wrong film.