While not breaking any new ground, “Alien Outpost,” directed by Jabbar Raisani, is an effective military/sci-fi hybrid which accomplishes a few things that films like this (“Battlefield: L.A.” comes to mind) often fail at: you actually care about the characters and there are no side trips which take away from the impact of the storytelling. “Alien Outpost” will have its U.S. premiere through IFC Midnight on January 30. Look for the movie on VOD as well iTunes.
Raisani co-wrote the movie with Blake Clifton, and while there are elements to “Outpost” which could have been served by a larger budget, it’s almost refreshing to see a stripped down movie of this sort. The setting of a lone anti-alien military outpost manned by a dozen or so troops increases the tension; we don’t even get any real glimpses of the aliens until we’re well into the story and have spent some time with the characters.
“Outpost” begins at the end. A documentary crew has been embedded with three troops who are on their way to Outpost 37 as reinforcements. Through the use of interviews and faux news footage, we get the key underpinnings of the movie. We see that aliens dubbed “The Heavies” have invaded the Earth several years before, and the troops who are left to give the interviews to our intrepid film within a film documentarians talk not only of the grimness, but the hope that they have for the future.
The United Nations has been disbanded in favor of a multi-national defense force, and Outpost 37 is basically a last line of defense. Only now there is also trouble with the local population, and the troops left behind are feeling doubly uneasy—abandoned by the command structure and forgotten by the world at large that they’re trying to defend. Something is happening with the Heavies; they’ve been quiet since the destruction from the first invasion. Are they planning something more?
The strength of the movie is the time we get to spend with the troops; while there are certain conventions that are observed in the military setting (the innocent, “aw-shucks” soldier who eventually gains respect, the slice of Americana backgrounds some of the guys have, and the hard-as nails commanding officer are just a few), it feels mostly natural. We get a sense of what’s going on and how to adjust to the world through the eyes of Omohundro (or “Omo”), played by Joseph Reegan. Omo is one of the three new reinforcements, and the one who blends into the established unit the easiest. Reegan gives a good balance to his performance—he gives Omo just the right blend of world-weariness but also the determination to get the job done without being over the top or clichéd.
While the plot is ostensibly about an assault on the Heavies after the troops make some startling discoveries when it comes to how the aliens plan to launch another attack and the way they plan on doing it, the movie is effective in the downtime. Raisani includes some modern day politics by using the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as its setting and trouble with the local population to add an added dimension of complexity. The downtime also works in that it ramps up the anticipation of the battle scenes and the situations that the troops find themselves in when they begin to put relationships and humanity before orders.
What would seem to be a fairly ambitious movie is helmed quite well by Raisani, a veteran visual effects supervisor whose credits include “Machete,” the reboot of “Fright Night” and “Game of Thrones.” He also serves in that capacity for “Outpost,” and it should also be noted that co-writer Clifton was the director of photography. Raisani handles the action and the quiet moments with equal deftness. The filmmakers know how to cover the fact that this is sci-fi made on a lower budget.
Over the past 20 years or so, as audiences have come to expect more and more when it comes to how their sci-fi movies look, in terms of scale and effects, character development and story sometimes suffer because they’re not paid equal attention. While “Alien Outpost” won’t make you forget any epics you’ve seen, it is a well-made, tight movie with characters you care about. And that has to count for something.
DIRECTOR: Jabbar Raisani SCREENWRITERS: Jabbar Raisani, Clifton Blake CAST: Joseph Reegan, Reiley McClendon, Sven Ruygrok, Matthew Holmes