(director: Rod Lurie; screenwriters: Eric Johnson/Paul Tamasay/based on the book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper; cinematographer: Lorenzo Senatore; editor: Michael Duthie; music: Larry Groupe; cast: Scott Eastwood (Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha), Caleb Landry Jones (Staff Sergeant Ty Carter), Orlando Bloom (First Lt. Benjamin Keating), Jack Kesy (Sgt. Josh Kersh), Cory Hardrict (Sgt. Vernon Martin), Milo Gibson (Capt. Robert Yllescas), Jacob Scipio (Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos), Taylor John Smith (First Lt Andrew Bundermann), James Jagger (Chris Jones), Kwame Patterson (Sylvanius Broward), Bobby Lockwood (Kevin Thomson), Jonathan Yunger (SFC Jonathan Hill); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul Merryman, Paul Tamasy, Marc Frydman, Jeffrey Greenstein, Jonathan Yunger, Les Weldon; Screen Media; 2020)
“It’s a good realistic war drama if you want to see how the war in Afghanistan is going.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A true war story based on CNN journalist Jake Tapper’s best-selling 2012 book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. It’s filmed in Bulgaria. The screenplay is by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, that tells about the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan’s endless war. Working from a modest budget it’s fiercely directed by the West Point graduate and film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie (“The Contender”/”The Last Castle”), who makes sure this war drama is authentic and fully captures the intensity of the battle. It’s a good realistic war drama if you want to see how the war in Afghanistan is going.
Combat Outpost Keating is a vulnerable target located in hostile surrounding territory populated by Taliban sympathizers, where it’s repeatedly under sniper attack by the enemy. It sits at the bottom of an Afghan mountain valley, Hindu Kush, overlooked by peaks and cliffs, in eastern Afghanistan.
Right from the film’s opening we see how tense are the servicemen of Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment stationed at COP Keating, “The Outpost,” as they are fired upon by mortar guns.
We immediately get to know the situation through the eyes of the new men assigned there. They include the stoic Staff Sgt. Romesha (Scott Eastwood) and the volatile former Marine, Sgt. Carter (Caleb Landry Jones). We’re informed that the soldiers are here to win the “hearts and minds,” and work closely with the locals. But the locals will prove to be security risks, who come into the camp to be trained to protect themselves but some are unreliable and have been known to tell the enemy the camp’s weak spots through photos.
First Lt. Benjamin Keating (Orlando Bloom), whose name was used as Outpost Keating, is the commanding officer who is ordered by the ranking officers to start closing down the location without him realizing that’s the Army’s actual goal. The order has the men move their heavy-duty trucks out from its low-ground position through a series of perilous narrow roads so they can save them if the Outpost is overrun.
What is made absolutely clear is that the military picked a wrong place to have a base, and this mistake was costly. They were thinking in political terms, believing they could be near enough the locals to gain their confidence and win them over. How that has worked out is about how futile the long war has been going for the Americans.
On Oct. 3, 2009, 53 American soldiers found themselves trapped when attacked by an estimated 400 Taliban force. The thirteen-hour battle would become one of the bloodiest Army confrontations in the region.
The result of the battle is the camp was nearly overrun and paid a dear price of eight dead and twenty-seven wounded. Thereby it was evacuated and bombed to destroy any useful material left behind. Most of the men in Bravo company were awarded either the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star or the Distinguished Service Cross. The two Staff Sergeants Clinton Romesha and Ty Carter were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The Outpost is always mindful of how the grunts view things and is deeply respectful of their sacrifice and bravery. It’s a compelling story about this unpopular war, with no end-game but to hold the line so the Taliban don’t have a free reign to launch further terrorist attacks from the impoverished country. It’s a war not fully covered in the news and is very costly in lives and money.
Because of the worldwide pandemic, the film did not get a theater release. It’s one of the better films you can catch while staying safe at home, even if the battle scenes are so well photographed they really deserve to be seen on the Big Screen.
REVIEWED ON 7/4/2020 GRADE: B+