Choices and Consequences: A Review of 2011 Movie - Battle: Los Angeles
Do you like SciFi movies to end in a hopeful note?
This October my family rented a film called Battle: Los Angeles (Columbia Pictures, directed by Jonathan Liebesman). It stars Aaron Eckhart and Ramon Rodriguez. If you like action films this movie should top your list and sci-fi enthusiasts will love the alien theme. The movie does contain a subplot that caused a chain reaction in my mind and I can't stop it.
SSgt. Nantz, the character played by Eckhart, struggles with a decision he made in battle while in Iraq. He was the only survivor of the squad he led. As he presents his resignation to his superior officer the aliens attack LA and the action begins, but the underlying theme resurfaces between attacks as the staff sergeant relates to his new squad. Second Lt. Martinez, Rodriguez' character, in charge of the squad is quite green and in the midst of battle freezes. SSgt. Nantz confronts him forcing him to make a decision. This is the part of the movie that has remained ingrained in my brain and strangely enough has answered a question I've had all my life: what to do when you don't know what to do and everyone depends on you.
Both men are extremely responsible people. They are not cowards, however they know their decisions will bring about dire consequences: someone will die due to their decisions. The answer the writer, Chris Bertolini, gives at this crossroads is uncannily simple. Nantz tells Martinez to move his men out of harms' way. If they stay put they will all die, but if they move out some will stand a chance: the choice has to be made blindly since the aliens are surrounding them and visibility is nil. Nantz simply says to Martinez give your soldiers a command, right, left, it doesn't matter. Deal with the consequences as they present themselves later, but choose.
This made sense to me. Within the fictional setting where the writer suspends reality he maintains a reality thread for me, the audience, to hold on to. This thread extends when one more element is introduced. As the soldiers move towards their destination they encounter civilians, adults and children, that must be protected. The remaining squad of green soldiers who fear an overpowering enemy can now focus on a goal: save the kids.
Now, the soldiers' discipline kicks in and they're able to think beyond their training and above their fears. Not all viewers can relate with soldiers, I have never been one, but this characterization of how people with a common goal and motivation can fight together overwhelming odds and come up with creative ideas on the spur of the moment has been experienced by people of all ages and backgrounds.
The movie goes further into the developing relationships between Nantz and the rest of the squad healing psychological wounds that slowly rear their ugly heads. The element of forgiveness comes into play here and once more the audience relates. Many people try to daily work together and offend each other along the way. The best approach to maintain peace in these relationships is to not jump to conclusions, face the truth and forgive. As was the case with one of the soldiers. Explaining further would remove some of the best flavor in the film so I'll leave it out for you to relish.
And then, of course, there are the aliens. Using techniques that echo the original Jaws film where you don't see the monster until more than halfway into the movie there is no real need to impress viewers with high tech or gore. If they had, the reality thread would have split and the movie's impact would've fizzled.
Out of five adults with completely different tastes in movies who watched at home no one was disappointed. Rent it. I haven't told you who lives, who dies or if the aliens won or not!