“Our mission from now is what it’s always been.” “Yeah, to survive.”
Just looking at the geographic layout of the outpost at Kamdesh in Afghanistan in 2006, one realizes how that mission to survive was a daily concern. Lurie and his cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore give viewers a tracking shot at the start of “The Outpost,” revealing how this real outpost was basically in the worst possible spot, at the center of a deep valley. The enemy Taliban forces always had a dominant perspective on it, and were able to hide out on the many ridges that overlooked it. They could shoot directly down into the outpost, which had been placed there near the Pakistani border to help with community relations, which quickly broke down after attacks and mistrust formed with the local elders.
Lurie and screenwriters Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (“The Fighter”) adopt an episodic approach for the first half of the film, as the troops at Kamdesh outpost suffer tragedies that require new leaders to take command. This half consists mostly of routine conversations interrupted by gunfire. The dialogue often overlaps, and many of the faces blend together, but that’s part of the point. These men were similar in age and often in background, and they all alternated the extreme boredom of a distant outpost with the constant terror associated with imminent attack. A few faces do stand out, including Lieutenant Benjamin D. Keating (Orlando Bloom), Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood), Specialist Ty Michael Carter (Caleb Landy Jones), and Captain Robert Yllescas (Milo Gibson).
Every performance in “The Outpost” is better than average, particularly for movies like this, and that’s one of Lurie’s greatest accomplishments. He threads that needle in which he somehow captures the “average guy” nature of this group of soldiers while giving his performers just enough of what they need to stand out. Eastwood is particularly solid, giving a performance that is so reminiscent of his father’s youth that one can almost close their eyes and hear Clint. (Try it when he says, “No. Not today.” It almost sounds like young Clint dubbed the line.) And Jones continues to impress, particularly in the back half of the film.