(2011) director Jonathan Liebesman
Battle: Los Angeles is more a war film at heart than a science fiction film, though of course it is both. Director Jonathan Liebesman takes the Black Hawk Down (2001) perspective of soldiers in an enemy-controlled urban environment, struggling for escape and survival. Of course, this is LA, not Mogadishu. And these aren’t warlords or mercenaries, but a militarized alien race, coming in to exterminate the humans.
There has been an insurgence of aliens in the theaters in 2011. And largely, they’re here to kill and/or take our natural resources.
The film has a lot of energy. It seems to be hurtling along almost all of the time, with shaky hand-held cameras and quick cuts, lots of explosions. Unfortunately, it has a lot of cliches as well. Maybe Liebesman figured if it kept moving forward, it wouldn’t give you time to dwell on the government issue Marines, multicultural though they are, who could have come from any war movie.
Actually, the film portrays the military in a very noble light. They are the heroes here, led by Aaron Eckhart, and each one performs with guts and integrity. Not that they shouldn’t be portrayed that way, but Battle: Los Angeles could well be used as a recruitment piece. In fact, when a young boy’s father dies, Eckhart consoles him and calls him “a little Marine”, and the way it plays out, it seems clear that that little boy will enlist when he reaches the age.
In this sense, the film is an escapist piece of patriotism. Using the visceral techniques of The Hurt Locker (2008) or Black Hawk Down, the Liebesman tries to add a level or realism to the film. In the War films, this is intended to create the sensation of “being there”, the tension, the noise, the violence, the fear. It adds empathy to an outsider’s perception of the lives of soldiers in intensely hostile environments. And Liebesman tries to add that verisimilitude to the alien invasion film, what it would be like on the ground with the soldiers fighting to protect American soil. I get it. I think. The idea.