Quick Reviews: 'The Outpost', 'You Should Have Left' | War Drama, Kevin Bacon In A Haunted House
Another week, another film about war coming from America. The Outpost, which was directed by Rod Lurie, is based on real events that occurred during the US army’s battles in Afghanistan against the Taliban. This particular battle took place at a camp base located at the bottom of a valley which then made it highly dangerous and vulnerable for an attack from above. A terrible militaristic move but extremely tense and terrifying setting for a cinematic experience, it’s perfect for a low-budget film that always looks to use its only setting to maximum effect. The first half flexes its weakest muscles because the characters don’t work pretty much at all but once the action starts in the second half, it starts to work together as one unit.
Sticking around a whole first half for a two hour movie just to see where it all ends up might be a tough ask but considering that it’s a war movie and you’re there to see exactly that, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in that sense. The nearly seamless execution of the terror that is a bloody and bullet-filled battleground requires a lot of synchronised action as well as technical artistry so it’s nice to see that you get that for much of it. Some wonky VFX can be forgiven for a certain budget but the movie really shines on the SFX side. Dusty smoke, haze and pyro work are neatly timed and they work for the story since it starts to make the already small camp seem smaller and smaller as the Taliban gets closer to the gates.
One of the lesser things about both the actual battle scenes and the story building phase in the beginning is the awfully weird lighting, both indoors and outdoors at nighttime. Actors’ eyes are constantly hard to distinguish because of the uneven shadows and sometimes they are facing the light source in static shots, in those it isn’t down to practicality so it just seems to be due to lack of shooting time. Occasionally, it’s off because Lurie and cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore are hellbent to use long tracking shots one after another which is sure impressive when it comes to camera moves but unnecessary when it comes to overall look.
Actors, such as Scott Eastwood (as sergeant Romesha) or Orlando Bloom (captain Keating) also get poor treatment from messy writing in the beginning, you’re introduced to so many that they all start to blend in and it’s hard to remember them. The one exception is Caleb Landry Jones (specialist Carter) who is the much needed emotional anchor from his first scene to his last, heartbreaking scene.
Smileys: SFX, Caleb Landry Jones
The battle did make me wish that I had seen it in theatres.
YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT
My most burning question is how is You Should Have Left not an unauthorised spoof of Blumhouse movies? It’s about a novelist who along with his wife and child goes to stay at a remote location for a while, only to find out that the house they’re living in does some creepy stuff to its residents. Now you might be thinking, that sounds an awful lot like ‘The Shining’? You’d be absolutely correct and on top of that both of the films are based on novels. Again, with one main location and limited cast to minimise the budget, it certainly follows the successful Blumhouse formula but the spoof part comes from its incompetence to be anything. A cool location doesn’t matter when a film not only fails its attempted genre but also the genres close to that.
Because of the eventual rating and what-not, there’s going to be a bit more talk about the lesser things about the movie but I want to quickly point out that technically it’s your typical horror stuff. Camera work, sound, music and editing are all there to support the story so it’s not as draining when you’re in the middle of it.
The problems begin to arise after you’re done with it. You start by wondering the travesty which is the husband (Theo) and wife (Susanna) pairing who are played by Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried. There is—and I can’t stress this enough,—zero romantic chemistry between them. The actors’ age difference is only one of the factors but it’s the first one you notice, you feel like they should be a father and a daughter also from the way they talk to each other and that’s not a pleasant thought afterwards. Child actor Avery Tiiu Essex, who plays the daughter Ella, does actually a pretty good job and also happens to somewhat resemble Seyfried.
Director and writer David Koepp doesn’t seem to have a grasp on the kind of movie he wants to make out of this. Sometimes you don’t get exactly what you were promised in terms of genre but it’s often pretty good because it succeeds in other avenues. With ”Left”, Koepp very much fails to do that. We’re mostly promised some psychological horror but the film lacks any sort of scares or torment. Genres close to it are thriller and drama but there’s not enough suspense for it to be thriller since there are just dream sequences and everything is explained with dialogue. There is no drama because the people are just roles and not characters; Susanna is just an actor, Theo is a writer who might have killed his ex and the kid is just a regular kid. That’s all you get in the beginning and again at the end. Also everything that happens at the end, you’ve already figured out all of it in the middle act.
Frowneys: Screenplay, characterisation, atmosphere, casting
Can’t wait for the 2059 film sequel to this: Doctor House (starring Hugh Laurie).