I wasn’t familiar at all with director Jonathan Liebesman’s career before watching his newest film, Battle: Los Angeles. With only two disappointing major releases on his resume, Darkness Falls and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, he could have been any of a thousand hack horror directors, scraping out just enough of a living to pay his rent and still call himself an “artist”. With B: LA, Liebesman has propelled himself to the top of the list of directors to keep an eye out for. Not only is B: LA the most imaginative, adventurous sci-fi film to be released since District 9, it is also the best war film since Saving Private Ryan.
The film opens with Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and his men in a helicopter flying above Los Angeles, while both the city and the aircraft get pummeled by alien firepower. We then flash back 24 hours to see the news reports of meteors hitting the Earth’s surface, in the waters off the coasts of all continents in strategic areas. Once hitting water, aliens made their way to dry land and started shooting. We learn that it didn’t take long before all United States military units along both coasts were barely able to hold defensive lines, and that Nantz’ squad is the last offensive force in all of Los Angeles.
Aaron Eckhart puts on an acting clinic in this film, turning what could have been a caricature into a character that we actually care about. That’s not to say that all of the acting assignments are this plum. Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar) adds one more tough-as-nails soldier character to her resume, and Michael Pena (Crash) appears in the thankless role of a dad trying to get his young son out in one piece, which basically involves him yelling, “Move move move,” for most of the movie.
The music in this film is incredible. Brian Tyler (The Expendables) is able to set the mood of the picture by having you on the edge of your seat just from the use of his score alone. Also, a big shout-out should be given to the design team responsible for the aliens. Never shot by the camera up close, they almost appear to resemble robots more than organic beings. That is, until the team stumbles upon one that is critically wounded and decides to poke around it’s insides to find out where it’s major organs lie. Just awesome special effects throughout the film.
If you leave the house this weekend and drive within ten miles of a theater, go see this film. Don’t wait for the DVD, don’t wait for it to pop up on cable. If there has been a movie released this year that was worth the cost of admission, this is it.