On Aug. 12, aliens launch a full-scale assault on 20 of Earth's coastal cities, including Los Angeles. But they just messed with the wrong city: U.S. Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton never retreat. The commander barks out the mission: "They are not of this earth and we gotta hit them hard." Hoo-rah!
Jonathan Liebesman's Battle: Los Angeles covers the critical 24 hours after the attack, when the few remaining armed forces try to: rescue some civilians; defend L.A.; stay alive; and disable the alien mothership.
This small unit is led, on paper, by 2nd Lt. Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), fresh from officers' training, but, in practice, by battle-hardened vet, Staff Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who has just filed his discharge papers. Everybody else is from the war-movie checklist: black guy; Asian guy; guy-about-to-get-married; greenhorn; random female Air Force pilot; Southern goober; and guy-with-grudge (his brother died under Nantz's earlier command). In a fresh take, the corpsman is Nigerian.
The Marines trudge through an obliterated Santa Monica, their perpetually loaded guns at the ready, looking for aliens in the smoke-filled suburban cul de sacs. Which garage, rooftop or pool is harboring an armed alien?
The attack must have wiped out all camera supports, because Battle is full-on herky-jerky. The frenetic action is interrupted only for a few breaks -- a fallen comrade here, a speech about what it means to be a Marine there. The furor of battle means it's impossible to tell which Marine is which (though I was confident only the important ones we needed to know about would survive). There's a lot of noise, but the violence is limited to explosions and discreet gunshot wounds. The grossest scene is a field autopsy of an alien.
Despite the fragments of backstory and personality, these ultimate fighting men become almost as mechanical as the robotic aliens they're battling. (It's as if all these fighters -- Marines and aliens -- were engaged in a giant demolition derby, where the soldier/car that kept blindly accelerating would triumph.)
Watching Battle is like being immersed in a realistic video game, or trapped in a very gritty recruitment film. This is classic barely-scripted fare: a band of warriors, alone in the battlefield fending off Germans, Viet Cong, Zulus, zombies, etc., who fight on and on and on, until the battle is won. Fears, injuries and deaths are simply shelved and converted to future stout-heartedness. There's not much tension or nuance here -- just a 90-minute barrage of small artillery until the inevitable giant explosion that seals our victory. Hoo-rah.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez