Last year gave us the phenomenal Edge of Tomorrow, a movie that carved a unique time-looping story out of a grander alien invasion war film. Alien Outpost is also a movie that takes place after an alien invasion has left the planet ravaged and afraid, but there isn’t really a hook to bite down on beyond relentless low-budget action mayhem. If you’re not looking for an action movie, though, then I don’t know how to sell this movie to you.
After years of working in the visual effects field on things like the 2005 Fantastic Four, Machete, and Game of Thrones, Jabbar Raisani makes his feature directorial debut with Alien Outpost, which takes place after an alien race came to Earth and spent a year invading it before retreating. Military outposts have been set up all around the world by the former UN, now called The United States Defense Force, and audiences are given “access” to the Middle East-set Outpost 37, where a documentary crew is allowed in to record the everyday goings-on. As you can imagine, impending danger is the order of the day, and the military squad stationed there are much better with their weapons than with social interactions.
It’s with this documentary crew that the film finds its structure, which features a ton of expository title cards and talking-head shots with the soldiers after the events of the film. The faux-doc approach isn’t that bad, but mostly because the majority of the shots look don’t look at all like they were filmed by a dude holding a camera in the middle of a war zone. It just looks like a regular movie. So, it’s kind of a failure in that way, but I preferred when we got wider angles on shit going down.
And shit. Goes. Down. There are, of course, moments when it’s just guys bonding, such as when the Outpost mainstays are giving the rookies shit, but every five minutes or so, all hell breaks loose and the bullets start flying. You see, there are still a sizable population of the aliens, dubbed Heavies, around the world, and they’re using their technology to cull the human threat. To make matters worse, the indigenous population in the area surrounding Outpost 37 is also fed up with the soldiers, so the military is basically just killing anything that comes around.
For the lack of budget that this film probably had to deal with, Raisani does a pretty amazing job of pulling off these action sequences in a way that feels fun, so long as you’re not taking things seriously. (You can go watch American Sniper if you want that.) There are explosions and gun battles a-plenty, as the soldiers try to figure out what the Heavies are up to.
But if we step away from the “cheesy war movie” side and take it at its on-the-nose look at warfare and military presence in other countries, it’s less successful. The movie seems to be vaguely condemning war-mongering and U.S. influence on global affairs, but does it in the middle of a scene where 14 guns are being shot at once. It never gets into the satire of Starship Troopers, and I’m not sure this cast would be able to pull it off anyway.
Though it doesn’t leave viewers with much to think about after it’s over, Alien Outpost is a calling card for Raisani’s work, although it might have worked better as a short film. In any case, we’ll hopefully be seeing him making bigger and better flicks in the coming years. But not Alien Outpost 2, okay?
Alien Outpost is now available on iTunes and other VOD outlets.