Based on Jake Tapper’s 2012 best-selling book, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” comes the true story of the Battle of Kamdesh, which took place Oct. 3, 2009 as U.S. forces engaged the Taliban in one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Afghan War.
Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom and a terrific Caleb Landry Jones lead the cast playing three of the 53 real-life heroes at Combat Outpost Keating who battled 300 insurgents. Director Rod Lurie (“Straw Dogs”) puts the audience in the middle of the action for an intense finale that leaves you thunderstruck.
“Saving Private Ryan” and last year’s “1917” both succeed in keeping the audience engaged when the action on screen is not at its highest level thanks to characters that seem authentic for many reasons. They’re down to earth, occasionally funny, scared, brave, heroic, and we get tidbits about their personal lives that make them authentic. Both films are inspired by true events, while “The Outpost” is a true story based on real individuals, but we don’t get to know these heroes on a personal level. The camaraderie and banter remain mostly virile as the film’s main mission is to prepare you for the climactic battle scene.
Another big difference between the Hollywood blockbusters aforementioned and “The Outpost” is the budget. Lurie managed to shoot the film, especially the monumental climax sequence, with just one camera. It’s an impressive feat as the 35-minute battle sequence holds its own against the biggest war dramas. After it’s over, the half hour assault will leave you feeling like you just went through 12 hours of living hell. It gives you a good idea of what the members of Combat Outpost Keating went through while outnumbered and at the worst vantage point imaginable.
Eastwood plays Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, a Medal of Honor recipient who played a critical role in the battle. He led a five-man team that managed to secure the camp and he took out one of the Taliban’s machine guns. Eastwood who was recovering from an ankle injury before taking on the role, gives a solid performance, almost emulating his famous father when he recites lines like “Sorry pal, that’s life at Camp Keating” in that signature Eastwood growl. Ironic that he’s playing a character named Clint as he begins to resemble and sound more like his dad every day.
Orlando Bloom is almost unrecognizable as First Lt. Benjamin Keating. Gone is the accent and the hair as Bloom speaks like he’s from Maine, “Our job is to separate the Taliban from the awd-rinee people.” This marks the first time Bloom has appeared in a military combat drama since 2001’s “Black Hawk Down.”
The best performance in “The Outpost” is by fellow Texan Caleb Landry Jones whose notable roles include “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Get Out.” Jones plays Spec. Ty Carter who is picked on by the men in his unit. He may be viewed as a runt by his fellow soldiers, but during the Battle of Kamdesh, while trapped inside a Humvee, Carter exposed himself to enemy fire several times after leaving the vehicle to retrieve ammo, rescue a wounded soldier and secure a field radio. For his bravery, Carter was awarded the Medal of Honor. Jones gives a moving performance while the real Ty Carter served as a technical advisor on the film.
Director Rod Lurie, an Army veteran and West Point graduate who worked as a film critic before jumping into filmmaking, is known for 2000’s “The Contender” which earned Oscar nominations for Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges, and the 2011 remake of Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.”
With “The Outpost” he pays tribute to the members of Bravo Troop 3-62 who battled the Taliban for 12 hours from a location at the bottom of a valley surrounded by the Afghan mountains. Trapped and outnumbered, their story will forever be immortalized by Lurie’s realistic film that puts us in the middle of the grueling battle.
It deserves to be seen in a theater to get the full impact but for now we’ll have to settle for our living room.