War is not a beautiful thing. It’s not glossy, it’s not shiny, and it is definitely not rainbows and puppy dogs. It is gritty, it is real, and it is hard to watch. The reality of war is played out a bit like an amazingly choreographed dance sequence. One side does one thing, the other responds, all while the reality of the consequences to the combatants and the bystanders is vicious and heartbreaking and leaves the whole experience with an emptiness.
In the new film The Outpost, director Rod Lurie takes us on a gritty and real ride into Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan. Outpost Keating has a beauty to it, with mountains enveloping the post at the bottom of a clearing. But the mountains overlooking the camp make for an extremely vulnerable target for the American soldiers who inhabit it.
Surrounded by villagers who seem to be split in their loyalties to the Taliban fighters who are embedded with them and the money that the United States provides to shape their future, the Americans try desperately to complete a mission that seems unknown to them. Although unclear in focus, they do what they have been trained for and attempt to survive the unyielding environment in which they are placed.
And the soldiers staffing Outpost Keating come from varied backgrounds and form varied alliances, each with their own coping mechanisms for the barrage of gunfire and mortar attacks that they face. While attempting diplomacy in the light of day with the surrounding villagers, they are constantly faced with a barrage of unpredictable attacks.
In The Outpost, the actors playing the roles are less important than the men they are portraying. And that is a huge bit of praise to Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom and so many of the cast members. I didn’t see Eastwood — I saw Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha. Jones was not on my radar — it was all about Ty Michael Carter. And Bloom was not a movie star — he just became 1st Lt. Benjamin Keating. So many actors bring to life the Battle of Kamdesh, which, save for Jake Tapper’s book on which this film is based, has seen little publicity.
But isn’t that the case with all war? The fighting and the process seem indistinguishable from the next. What does change are the people. Their stories change, their background changes, their personalities change, but there are some comforting components that are truly made clear in Lurie’s film.
These men at this remote location love each other. The most bitter enemies have true emotions when losing a brother, and brothers were lost here. These men don’t celebrate Memorial Day at the beach with fun and frivolity; they remember those brothers who were not as fortunate and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The Outpost is gritty and real. It shows the revolving door a military operation can be. It focuses on the people who are impacted in battle and doesn’t apologize for the graphic nature that is the reality of the situation. While a far-from-perfect film, when The Outpost started rolling, I was riveted to the screen and found tears rolling down my cheek when people I learned to love were put in peril.
The men of Outpost Keating were on their own in a foreign land, but they were together, and sometimes being together is just the salve that is needed to start healing the wounds of battle.
The Outpost is available now On Demand. Check your cable system for availability