Faux Doc Alien Outpost Shoots for Battlefield Realism
With Earth forces victorious over the alien invaders, a pair of documentary filmmakers (Brandon Auret, Darron Meyer) head to a remote military outpost in the Afghani mountains to chronicle the small group of soldiers responsible for rooting out the last groups of invaders – nicknamed ‘Heavies’ – still roaming the region. Things get strange when locals begin to take up arms once again and start fighting the international coalition as if it were the early 2000s. But that’s the least of the group’s problems, everything caught on camera as the filmmakers and the soldiers stationed at the outpost learn that the battle against the aliens isn’t as close to being over as everyone originally thought.
Alien Outpost is a faux military documentary constructed and shot in the same vein as actual Afghan war chronicles Restrepo and Korengal. It is, more or less, an intimate examination of soldiers during wartime, showcasing how they interact one with another as the world around them struggles to hold together. Director Jabbar Raisani, co-writing with Blake Clifton, uses an out-of-this-world concept to look at real struggles, actual hardships, striving for a sense of stripped-down realism that’s more about the here and now than it is anything fantastical.
I couldn’t help but wonder in no small way why the filmmakers chose to attack the subject matter in this fashion, why they didn’t just make an actual documentary about the soldiers on the frontlines and not some sort of science fiction-docudrama hybrid. Raisani proves himself to be a competent filmmaker, and while he and Clifton have a bit of fun playing on various tropes and ideas inherent to pieces such as this they really don’t initially do a heck of a lot that’s unexpected. Momentum, especially early on, is incredibly difficult to come by, the various talking heads popping up to speak on their time fighting against the Heavies in Afghanistan a little tiresome more often then they’re sadly anything else.
Strange thing, though, about halfway through a few interesting, if not exactly unforeseen, events take place that began to catch my interest. The soldiers are faced, not only with perplexing occurrences and incursions by both hulk-like alien and gun-toting human alike, they are also handicapped by conflicting orders from those in charge that make less and less sense as things progress. Faced with an untenable situation that’s only getting worse by the moment, the unit makes seemingly the only decision they can and, in the process of doing so, uncover an even greater threat to humanity’s continued existence than anything they could have imagined before doing so.
The filmmakers stage all of this with explosive flair, managing to ratchet up suspense and tension during the film’s second half that simply did not exist during its rather routine first fifty or so percent. On top of that, Raisani handles the two-camera perspective nicely, everything edited together by Mike Jackson and Finnian Murray into an enthralling whole that only gets more interesting as events escalate. Better, the director stages a climactic siege on a mysterious alien stronghold beautifully, and while there are plot holes to spare and clichés up the wazoo that somehow doesn’t make the finale any less suspenseful and exciting. It’s terrific, energizing stuff, and as silly as it all proves to be I can’t say I wasn’t happily smiling all the same by the time things finally came to their conclusion.
There is a noticeable imbalance as far as the strength of individual performances are concerned, some members of the cast trying so hard to appear as if they’re not actually ‘acting’ they only call attention to themselves in ways that are hardly flattering. But the majority do fine work, achieving a level of matter-of-fact believability that fits the overall conceit handsomely. I also believed pretty much throughout that this was indeed a cohesive fighting unit filled with men who would live and die for the well-armed grunt standing alongside of them, that sense of militaristic camaraderie breaking through start to finish.
I can’t say Alien Outpost felt essential. I also admit that it took a fair share of the film’s 90-minute running time for me to become engaged in what was going on and why. But overall Raisani has crafted a fairly intriguing debut, and while far from perfect for genre nuts like myself there’s just enough to get excited about for me to be interested in seeing what the former visual effects wizard (he’s worked on everything from Predators to Fright Night to “Game of Thrones”) has in store for me next.
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)