In 2012, CNN news anchor and chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper released a non-fiction novel titled “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor”. It tells the story of a group of U.S. soldiers at a remote outpost near the town of Kamdesh, Afghanistan, who were overwhelmed and attacked by hundreds of Taliban in 2009. It was called The Battle of Kamdesh and was considered the bloodiest battle for American soldiers in that year. Rod Lurie’s latest film adapts Tapper’s novel with a star-studded cast leading the way. However, this film puts more of an emphasis on the battle itself rather than diving into the many decorated individuals at its center. The Outpost finds success in its thrilling, white-knuckling battle sequence, but rarely digs below the surface of the ones who fought in it.
The Outpost starts off by explaining how, in 2006, the U.S. Army established a number of outposts in Northern Afghanistan in order to connect with the locals and cut off any weapons or supplies that may be transported to the Taliban. One of these outposts, and the one this story centers on, was called COP Keating. Based at the bottom of three different mountains, the outpost was nearly surrounded on all sides, putting it at a massive disadvantage if an attack were to take place. Many individuals being sent there even believed that they had no choice but to accept the fact that they probably wouldn’t be making it out alive due to the outpost’s location. From here, a number of characters are promptly introduced that are all en route to the outpost, but things don’t stay calm for long.
The conflict kicks off fairly quickly, with Lurie immersing viewers into it almost immediately and without warning. In many instances, casual conversations are suddenly cut off by gunfire, placing the viewer right in the shoes of these soldiers and keeping them just as on edge. At one point, Scott Eastwood’s character, Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha, expresses that as long as they stay alive, they win, which echoes that intense sense of awareness that these soldiers feel daily while heightening the edge-of-your-seat action for the viewer. The stakes are incredibly high from the get-go, and tensions only rise from that point onward. There’s rarely a moment where Lurie allows the viewer time to pause, relax, and breathe, but rather, maintains that high-intensity energy throughout the film’s entire runtime. By doing this, Lurie is able to show viewers the almost constant feeling of uncertainty that these soldiers lived with on a daily basis. Not only is it immersive, but it’s consistently gripping.
However, these incredible scenes of overwhelming action are often at the expense of well-developed characters and an added depth to the story. Aside from their brief introductions at the beginning, most of these characters aren’t explored beyond that. It feels very surface-level, with little room being made available for exploration into these individuals and who they are. It isn’t until the film’s very final moments where a few of these soldiers’ more vulnerable sides are tapped into. Be that as it may, in comparison to some war movies like Sam Mendes’s wildly successful 2019 hit 1917 or even Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (which both allowed ample space for their leads to fully explore a range of emotions about what they were enduring), The Outpost focuses more on the intense, and often crass, camaraderie these soldiers have rather than the emotional impact each of them experiences while being there.
Even so, this joking back-and-forth they all share could be a reflection of the fear they’re feeling because of where they are and the dire circumstances they’re in. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see behind that curtain as the narrative becomes more enveloped in the battle itself. At one point, Caleb Landry Jones’ Staff Sergeant Carter even exclaims that “all this frat boy sh*t and joking around […] this is not the place for it,” and it feels like the point being made is never truly taken to heart. As the story carries on, they all maintain these same attitudes until the second half of the film when the main battle starts up. From there, it’s non-stop action until the last ten minutes or so. It’s clear that a tough-love atmosphere is needed in a place like this, but by leaving very little room available at the beginning for even brief moments of empathetic interaction holds The Outpost back from being the best war movie that it could be.
Regardless, The Outpost remains a harrowing story that does a fantastic job of immersing viewers directly into its high-intensity action. Lurie’s direction even captures these terrifying instances that these soldiers faced with very precise angles and viewpoints, especially when the camera pans upward to show how they really are just sitting ducks at the bottom of these mountains. It may not be perfect, but it’s a thrilling and well-shot story that still honors those that served at Combat Outpost Keating during the Battle of Kamdesh.
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The Outpost releases in select theaters and on-demand on July 3. It’s 123 minutes long and rated R for war violence and grisly images, pervasive language, and sexual references.
3 out of 5 (Good)
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About The Author
Hannah Hoolihan is a film critic and news writer that’s been working with the Screen Rant team since March of 2019. Before joining this crew, she spent four years writing movie reviews and conducting interviews on her own website. She even became a Tomatometer-approved film critic on Rotten Tomatoes all on her own!
Alongside Screen Rant, more of her bylines can be found on IGN, Collider, Geek Bomb, and Leonard Maltin’s website. She’s also a member of Women in Film in Los Angeles and is extremely passionate about their cause.
When she’s not writing or watching Fleabag for the millionth time, she can be found exploring new restaurants in her area or at the dog park with her two adorable pups. You can keep up with her shenanigans on Instagram: @hannah_hoolihan.
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