Battalion

Like a lot of people, I kind of hope there are aliens out there somewhere that we might meet someday. Of course, considering how the movies usually portray meetings with aliens I might be ridiculously naive for wishing that, since all aliens on film are incredibly strong, determined to invade Earth, and possessed of highly advanced technology that makes it easy for them to wipe us out, or at least come very close before we unleash the common cold and they all die. In Battalion, though, it looks like the common cold isn't any help this time.

When the invasion begins, John Blake (Jesse Richardson) is, as usual, avoiding taking on any real responsibility as he bums around Los Angeles picking up odd jobs. His adopted brother Chris Jackson (Michael Thomson), meanwhile, has just made lieutenant in the Marines and is a devoted family man, husband to Anne (Shannon Gibson) and dad to Jennifer (Emma Gibson). Chris is home on leave after seeing some serious action in northern Africa, but when the invasion starts he's immediately called back up. LA is uncomfortably near the front lines, since the aliens are focused on the Pacific, and John takes on the task of getting the Jackson family to safety.

But the next attack targets LA directly, and survivors are few and far between. A much-subdued John volunteers for the Marines and heads off to basic training with fellow new recruit Tracey Gleeson (Ellen Williams), who teaches astronomy. Her decision to volunteer was equally spur of the moment, so it's no surprise that they strike up a friendship, especially once they've faced action together. The aliens seem to be working their way up to tackling Australia -- which makes sense since every animal there is at least as dangerous as an alien invader -- but as it stands the U.S. troops in the Pacific are effectively cut off from home.

Chris, however, isn't handling the pressure well. He insisted on getting back into the action, but now doesn't seem to care what happens to him or any of his troops, including John, and shows zero interest in completing their mission even as the situation gets more dire. It's time for the black sheep of the family to step up -- except it might be too late.

It isn't a big-budget sci-fi film, with the special effects of varying quality, but I thought the alien ground troops were handled well and most of the action sequences were solid and suspenseful. The final showdown unfortunately lacked some of the tension it should have had, almost certainly due to budget constraints. But the film succeeds in being more character-driven rather than relying on fight scenes to get them through, and while some minor roles don't have the chance for much development there's still a good sense of camaraderie -- and sometimes conflicting loyalties -- among the troops.

Best of all, the film doesn't fall too much into the usual tropes and keeps both plot and character development realistic, despite the science-fiction aspects. The aliens are (refreshingly) nothing but villains while the human cast is much more complicated and interesting. So even with its flaws it's an entertaining escape and I'll give it three and a half out of five. It's a more human look at an alien invasion, rather than a Hollywood epic, but as with a lot of lower-budget films it makes up for a lack of funds with a lot of heart.

Image: 
Movie poster. Nothing like this is in the movie, however.

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