It’s all about the man next to you when you really get into the shit…
The Outpost just might be the best war film that we’ve seen 2001’s Black Hawk Down; it’s a film about service and the man next to you in the face of insurmountable odds.
Based on Jake Tapper’s non-fiction book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, this film follows a tiny unit of U.S. soldiers, alone at the remote Combat Outpost Keating, located deep in the valley of three mountains in Afghanistan, as they battle to defend against an overwhelming force of Taliban fighters in a coordinated attack. The Battle of Kamdesh, as it was known, was the bloodiest American engagement of the Afghan War in 2009 and Bravo Troop 3-61 CAV became one of the most decorated units of the 19-year conflict.
Where The Outpost differs from other films, is that it’s a story that less about the conflict itself but more about the men who willingly walk into impossible situations like the infamous battle at Fort Keating and the courage it took to survive.
With director Rod Lurie at the helm (a former military man himself) we get a film that has genuine efficiency to it from top to bottom as it’s technically very precise and emotionally accurate to the experience in so many ways.
It never tries to wave the flag or give any right or wrong side to the conflict that these men are faced with, it instead focuses on the terrifying nature of war and being ordered/assigned somewhere that could quite possibly get you killed.
Lurie and screenwriters Eric Johnson & Paul Tamasy working from the book by Jake Tapper give this movie (which is incredibly violent, especially in the last half) some real humanity to it. They successfully capture day to day life in an indefensible outpost like this was; one minute you’ve got a towel on heading out for the shower and the next you have to ditch the towel pick up your rifle because the base is taking fire from the mountain’s above. It’s not action packed…it’s uncertain and scary as all hell, particularly in during the penultimate battle scene which is a good 1/3rd (if not more) of the entire film. For men in a combat outpost like this, service is about making sure they all come out of this hell hole alive and that tension bleeds through the screen from minute one.
Obviously so much of the real meat in this narrative succeeds because of some outstanding direction and fantastic performances in a few key spots in what was very much an ensemble movie.
Caleb Landry Jones as Specialist Ty Carter really threw himself into the role as a young man not really knowing what it means to be serving in a place as truly dangerous as Camp Keating was to eventually finding the true solider and spirit inside him. It was simply electric to watch his transformation from a misguided screw up to a genuine hero that puts the lives of the men his serving besides above his very own. Meanwhile Scott Eastwood comes into some serious leading man swagger as Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha who leads the charge to take back a base which by all rights was already indefensible from an invading force.
However, it does have to be note that the real emotional genius here in The Outpost is that some of the actors playing soldiers on the base have not only actually served in real life combat situations, but one of them even is an actual survivor of the attack on Camp Keating. This ramps up the realism; both the actual and emotional of it all and we as an audience get a genuine sense of how intense and genuine terrifying it must have been to actually be there.
The Outpost is the right kind war movie. It glorifies nothing and reminds us that war and these conflicts that men and women are willingly running into on our behalf isn’t always about who wins and who loses but about making sure that the job gets done and that the guy to the left of you and the guy to the right of you get home safe and sound, because they want that just as much as you do.