Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
USMC SSgt Michael Nantz (Aarin Eckhart) is ready to retire from the corps. Not long before the start of the film he had lost an entire squad yet managed to survive. Because of this and the guilt he feels he decides to leave the Marines once his current mission is done. When some meteorites start landing in a controlled fashion off various coasts around the world, it becomes clear that these aren’t meteorites but rather invading alien ships. He is paired with USMC 2ndLt William Martinez, 1st Platoon (Ramon Rodriguez) on a search and rescue mission that quickly becomes a fight for survival.
The film starts out quietly enough with small scenes establishing the characters in the squad. They don’t overly develop them, but they do develop them enough that you care about what happens.
The first 2/3 of the movie are pretty brutal. Each encounter with the alien invaders is tougher than the previous one. People die easily. And it makes the invaders look thoroughly unstoppable. It’s a science-fiction survival film and the story is focused on the squad and the people they pick up along the way surviving.
The aliens themselves are pretty alien looking. They’re not actors in prosthetics but rather CGI creations. In broad strokes they have identifiable body parts such as a head and arms and legs but with the obvious mechanical attachments and an overall closer examination of them makes them clearly not human. Which is good because you do not empathize with them at all. You want to cheer for the heroes when they fight the aliens.
Part of the story is that the character of Nantz must come to terms with what happened before in order to help his men survive as well as getting the forgiveness and trust of his men that know what happened.
There are some jokes in the movie, but the film is largely humorless. Before the action starts the characters bust each others balls and crack a few jokes but then it stops which is fairly realistic but when the last third of the movie hits they start cracking jokes again. That makes the movie a little uneven but nothing so bad that it detracts from the overall story. By the end of the movie the disparate characters who may not have liked one another have formed into a family and become a cohesive team. Combat has brought them together as well earned Nantz their forgiveness and his redemption.
The story is tense and action oriented. They don’t skimp on the excitement nor on the visuals. Los Angeles really is bombed into oblivion here. The aliens show no mercy and they show just how merciless the creatures are on screen. They also get the characters to feel real. You believe their motivations and the decisions made fit the characters making them. Nobody makes a ludicrous decision out of the blue that doesn’t fit with what has been going on or what the character has done before, nor does anybody make a shocking leap in logic.
They craft a believable world for their story to take place in here. There is nothing too outlandish on the part of the humans or the aliens. I would expect alien technology to be fairly advanced and these aliens are, but it isn’t so out there so it allows the humans to believably get on a possible equal footing with the enemy.
They keep the aliens and their vehicles and weapons in this movie at a distance. There are many moments of getting an adequate look at them which is just fine. You don’t need to be face-to-face with the enemy plus it avoids the possibility of having something linger up close that just doesn’t look good and in today’s culture people aren’t as forgiving of it as they once were.
I’ve heard some people talk smack about this movie but in my opinion it’s a very good militaristic alien invasion flick. This is probably one of my favorite alien invasion films. The battle scenes are brutal. What happens is plausible. And the story is well crafted and well directed. This is something that needs to be on your watchlist. You should see it.