This is an outstanding movie. If you felt ripped off by almost every recent SF movie, and insulted by almost every recent military movie, this is your huckleberry.
- This is the alien invasion movie that Independence day should have been.
- This is the small-squad alien movie that Starship Troopers should have been.
- This is the American military movie that [fill in the blank] should have been.
There are only a few clunker moments in the film, but they are isolated and not structural. This movie cashes the checks written over the past twenty years by movies struggling to deliver the grit, emotion, action, suspense, and military technical detail that movie watchers demand and have not received.
I suppose my only serious criticism is in the sacrifice/pay-off equation, but to describe it further would give away more than I should in a booster review, which this most certainly is.
I’ll flesh this out later, but for now allow me to simply give this movie my highest recommendation. You are very fortunate if viewing this movie for the first time is in your future: You are in for a treat, for this is the sort of movie “they don’t make anymore”.
It is obvious that the film was made if not with the direct involvement of a whole lot of military sorts, then with a whole lot of consultation for technical detail and cultural nuance. This is what Full Metal Jacket could have been, if Kubrick had allowed R. Lee Ermey to re-wire the entire film the way he did the metastasized boot camp section. Themes from Heartbreak Ridge are faithfully carried out, even if compressed a bit to make room for the unveiling of the spectacular alien invasion.
Unlike Independence Day, which I staggered away from as if gut-shot, this film celebrates achievement without dredging up Bill Pullman’s mawkish and saccharine, incomprehensible portrayal of a character with no justification in the film. When the characters are down, the audience is down, and when they are up, the audience is on its feet cheering. The effects and the composition of CGI vehicles and such comport well with George Lucas’ decades-old guidance that the more time you spend on a scene, the less time it should stay on the screen. There are no fighter planes literally posing for the camera as in Independence Day, and while many of the more developed shots become crowded with smoke trails and so forth, these shots are done well and help to propel the movie further. Nowhere is the screen-full-of-crap of George Lucas’ later years, or pointless repetition of I-paid-for-it-and-I-say-it-gets-another-close-up effectsmanship.
The invasion itself is a masterwork, in that it unfolds rapidly, without extraneous explanation of things the characters would have no way of knowing and which the audience does not care about, and with plausible physics represented faithfully and modestly.
Complaints are few: you could worry about some things having one form of aerial suspension which differs from that of others, or about what a “Copperhead” is, or the biopsy McGuffin, but I give these a pass. Partly from a “halo” effect caused by the overall great vibe spilling from this jam-packed movie, and partly because a little sleight of hand is to be expected in an alien invasion movie. If the tricks are executed without insulting the audience, we find we don’t mind, and simply pivot off that rock to get to the next scene.
I cannot overstate the value of halo to this movie. It has succeeded wildly where so many predecessors have failed that I had frankly given up on Hollywood’s capacity to get this right. This movie gets it right on so many fronts that I gladly overlook and even come to appreciate the parts that bring to mind a bit movie-making.