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Alien Outpost
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by Jay Seaver

"Not much good as a war movie or science fiction."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: This was the second alien-invasion movie the festival served up in a row after a draining day at work, which is perhaps not the ideal situation in which to see it. On the other hand, it wasn't just fatigue making it hard for me to stay awake and alert, but boredom, and does a movie about the front lines of an alien invasion with a fair amount of action really have any business being boring?

It starts with three new American soldiers - Frankie Fiorello (Sven Ryugrok), Ryan Andros (Reiley McClendon), and Alex "Omo" Omohundro (Joe Reegan) - arriving at Outpost 37 on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, near where a cluster of "Heavies" from the repulsed alien invasion of a few years back still remains. They're followed by a documentary crew, which records their daily routine from being hazed by the folks who have been on-station longer. The mostly-forgotten base is commanded by Captain Spears (Rick Ravanello), with Lt. North (Matthew Holmes) serving as his right-hand man. Despite the best efforts of their liaison Saleem (Khalil Kathrada), they're facing as much opposition from locals as Heavies these days, and the relative calm is about to come to an end.

For being set twenty-odd years in the future, Outpost 37 (or Alien Outpost, its more alphabetical-menu-friendly name) can seem awfully retrograde at times. Take its all-male cast, for instance; it's commented upon as a source of stress among the soldiers, but it's 2035 - why has the army apparently regressed in that area? There's another scene where a soldier is being a local casualty and one of the documentarians asks how he knows how to give the man an Islamic burial, getting "know your enemy" in response. There's some potentially interesting places you could go with that, playing with how quickly old animosity returns even after a conflict where the whole world would have to pull together, but filmmaker Jabbar Raisani seems content to just fall into familiar war-movie patterns rather than give these things some thought.

That's about what it does with the cast, too. They're not a bad group, but they don't get much chance to differentiate themselves - Sven Ryugrok plays the more wide-eyed new guy, while Rick Ravenello does a good hardass and Matthew Holmes fine as the l less intense career soldier. For the most part they're a fairly uniform group, with the actors doing well enough but the audience thankful for the captions during the interview portions to help tell the various nondescript white guys apart.

The faux-documentary motif kind of comes and goes throughout the movie, and it's actually kind of annoying; Raisani will have cinematographer/co-writer Blake Clifton shake the camera in one scene to make sure we know it's first-person, then use an angle that is simply not possible, then have a scene of Spears talking to the filmmakers. The story is also nothing special; dull gung-ho platitudes for the first half giving way to a standard sci-fi plot and a drawn-out battle that just grinds on without rhythm or excitement. Major effects shots are saved for late, and they look like they came out of a video game.

At heart, "Outpost 37" is a brothers-of-the-battlefield war movie, and its lack of ambition to be much more need not doom it. It's just not even good enough at the basics to worth the time.

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originally posted: 02/09/15 15:29:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2015 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 07-Jul-2015

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