Based on the book, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor," by CNN's Jake Tapper, "The Outpost" is an exceptional and stark look at a group of heroes literally forced to fight their way out of a hole...a hole they were placed in by none other than their superior commanders.
It seemed doomed from the beginning. In 2009 during "Operation Enduring Freedom," American troops in Afghanistan had a two-fold task: One, they needed to keep Taliban forces at bay by any means necessary. Second, they were meant to win favor with local Afghan communities, to prove that embedded American troops were "the good guys" that were there to liberate and help the country free itself from oppression.
Several "outposts" were set up across the country to do just that. One such outpost, Combat Outpost Keating, was later labeled "obviously indefensible" by the US government. Set literally in a valley surrounded by mountains (aka "high-ground") on all sides just 14 miles from the Pakistani border, it's hard to know what the US Military was thinking. As the film shows, it was also nicknamed "Camp Custer" for obvious reasons.
The 53 US soldiers stationed there were used to daily gunfire battles with Taliban insurgents...they even kept office pools as to the method of attack that the Taliban would use in their daily confrontations. Led by 1st Lieutenant Benjamin Keating (Orlando Bloom), the men would withstand these constant annoyances while trying to gain ground with local elders in any way they could.
Eventually, it became clear that these little suicide missions by the Taliban troops were meant to gain bits of intel on the camp. "The Big One" - meaning a full-out attack - was eminent and felt by many of the soldiers, including Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood).
The film, "The Outpost," tells the story of what would be known as "The Battle of Kamdesh," when "The Big One" finally came and nearly destroyed Camp Keating. It's a harrowing true-story that can be broken into two-parts, with the first-half establishing the several soldiers and their every-day life at the Camp, and then the latter-half an intense, ultra-violent and mesmerizing action sequence that takes you right to the front lines, and sometimes, even a bit too close for comfort.
There have not been such intense ground-floor war sequences like this maybe "Saving Private Ryan," which is high-praise for the sound mixing, editing, costume and set design, and cinematography found in "The Outpost." Also to know that each one of these performances are based on their real counterparts. To up the stakes and the tension for the viewers, known-actors and non-actors are treated with the same respect...as in war, death comes quickly and suddenly and doesn't discriminate.
The movie works great as a testament to the fortitude and sacrifice of our American troops, and is a good reminder that political affiliation means absolutely nothing when it comes to our soldiers putting their lives on the line for the greater good. "The Outpost" steers clear of bigger picture questions, has nothing to say as to the "why," and focuses more on the "how."
Of course what sets this story apart from any of the other battles fought in this war or others, is how the top military brass put these men at an obvious tactical disadvantage, which ultimately led to American casualties. It also shows that no matter the circumstances, US troops obey orders from their commanders and have no choice to but assume that their "superiors" know what they're doing.
One person who definitely knows what they're doing is director Rod Lurie, who unflinchingly positions "The Outpost" as one of the most unforgettable films of 2020.
Genre: Drama, History, War.
Run Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, Bobby Lockwood, Jacob Scipio.
Based on the book "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor" by Jake Tapper.
Directed by Rod Lurie ("Straw Dogs," "Nothing But the Truth," "The Last Castle").
"The Outpost" is available on streaming platforms on Friday, July 3rd, 2020.
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