REVIEW: After slow start, ‘The Outpost’ rallies for strong finish

A major battle during the War in Afghanistan where United States soldiers were completely out numbered is featured in this 2020 war movie.

The picture is set 11 years ago, in the fall of 2009, and follows United States soldiers who are stationed at Combat Outpost Keating. Life for the soldiers is never easy, as the outpost was labeled indefensible.

Centered in a valley and with an enemy threat constantly looming, it is difficult to keep the outpost safe and secure. This becomes most apparent in early October, when more than 300 Taliban insurgents attacked the location in what’s called the Battle of Kamdesh.

The third act of “The Outpost” is incredible. It’s a remarkably suspenseful experience watching this group of soldiers try to hold out long enough to receive support. It’s a situation that goes from bad to worse as it goes on, adding more tension to the film as the battle continues.

It’s piece of film that puts a viewer right into the intensity of battle without letting up. The thing is, an audience has to go through the rest of the movie to actually get there.

That’s not to say the first two acts are a chore to sit through, they’re not. However, there’s not much featured earlier in the film that’s really engaging. There are a few firefights that showcase the danger of the location, and capture one’s attention, but when these moments end the film drags.

The movie simply lacks the nuance, narrative structure and character depth that movies such as “Green Zone,” “Lone Survivor” or “American Sniper” have.

Courtesy Screen Media Films

What viewers are treated to during much of these moments leading up to the final battle are some rather generic scenes showing banter between the characters. There’s the usual dialogue and chatter between soldiers one expects from a modern war film, and it does little more than to establish character traits, basically there to help an audience keep track of who’s who.

Unfortunately that doesn’t work perfectly because it’s easy sometimes to forget which character is which. While no one character stands out memorably, it’s noticeable that as a viewer, one can really become attached to the group as a whole because of what they’re going through.

Despite not knowing every name, watching the characters band together and rely on each other is truly compelling, and one can’t help but be fully engaged with their fight for survival in the film’s latter half.

It should be noted that “The Outpost” is technically marvelous, too. The setting and battle sequences are raw in their realism, capturing the odds the characters are up against and just how desperate of a situation they were in. The crew create an erratic environment that really works.

“The Outpost” is an alright, but still fairly generic modern war film for two thirds, and then it ramps up to above average with a strong finish. Plus, the craftsmanship from start to finish when it comes camerawork and sound design is on point. 3.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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