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Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Battle: Los Angeles (also known as Battle: LA and internationally as World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles) is a 2011 American military science fiction war film directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ne-Yo, and Michael Peña. The film is set in modern day Los Angeles and follows a retiring Marine Staff Sergeant who must go back into the line of duty to lead a platoon of U.S. Marines, US Army troops and a US Air Force technician during a global alien invasion. In April 2011, large objects, thought to be meteorites, land in the oceans near several major coastal cities. The objects are discovered to be spacecraft containing hostile extraterrestrial life. Marines from Camp Pendleton arrive in Los Angeles, including SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a 20-year veteran who had lost his squad during his tour in Iraq. In the film's opening Nantz was officially retiring, but because of the attack is instead made the acting platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. Under command of 2ndLt.
On the plus side, however, director Jonathan Liebesman understands action. He knows how to make his shaky-cam compositions work with the necessary amount of edge-of-your-seat electricity, and he never overuses the optical gimmick when the firefights ratchet into overdrive. In fact, the movie more or less never lets up, going from crisis to crisis with a narrative crispness that comes from proper pacing. Sure, the first 20 minutes or so are slow and sloppy, our company of Marines mandating the standard shorthand introductions and explanations. But once the mislabeled "meteors" start dropping, this is one battle that barely takes a breath.
The story centers on Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Eckhart), in denial over a recent tragedy while on a tour of duty in the Middle East and now ready to hang it up. As a favor to his superior, he agrees to stay on and help train a new squad, including a fresh and untested Lieutenant (Ramón Rodríguez), a wise guy Jersey boy (Gino Anthony Pesi), a newly engaged ladies man (Ne-Yo), a Nigerian medic (Adetokumboh M'Cormack) and an unsteady soldier under psychological observation (Jim Parrack).
Before they can really get started, the California coast is attacked. Aliens from another planet have come to this one for its water supply, and they are wiping out any indigenous impediment to same. As they fight to find survivors, the group comes across a downed Navy pilot (Michelle Rodriguez) with some important information. Hooking up with a single father (Michael Pena), a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan) and their kids, they hope to get to safety before the Air Force uses L.A. for nuclear target practice. It's a last stand for mankind...and it may be too late.
Because of its desire to willfully wallow in buckets of "Ooh-rah" machismo while waving the good old red, white, and blue, there are times when Battle: Los Angeles out-patriots Independence Day. Unfortunately, there's also a desire to waste time in pointless character prattle a la Skyline. Somewhere in the middle lies this otherwise entertaining thriller, a film that does want to divest itself of its faux authenticity long enough to legitimately get us up and cheering. Sure, we are manipulated into rooting for our men (and woman) in uniform, and the last act defiance and desire to take on the aliens makes our uniformed citizenry more than a bit superhuman.
That's because this is a movie that, when faced with finding a way out of its considerable contrivances, simply cheats. It throws in the kid factor for maximum adult guilt, and then adds in a vendetta against Nantz and one of his men (whose brother died under the staff sergeant's command) as if fighting off fiends from another galaxy wasn't enough. Make no mistake, Battle: Los Angeles gets a lot of things right. It's the wrong bits that will determine what you ultiamtely think of the movie itself.