‘The Outpost’ — a war film remembers the fallen

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You might expect director Rod Lurie to push the flag-waving aspect of a film about the war in Afghanistan.

Though The Outpost pays heartfelt tribute to the soldiers who fought and died during the bloody 2009 Battle of Kamdesh, he opens fire on the military hubris and stupidity that put these soldiers there in the first place. While President Obama talked of withdrawing troops, Army brass ordered a small unit of 53 U.S. soldiers to hold down Camp Outpost Keating, located at the bottom of three steep mountains. It was also just 14 miles from the Pakistan border, where more than 400 Taliban fighters picked them off from above like sitting ducks.

It’s that suicide mission that Lurie, and a cast headed by Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom, bring so vividly to life as the insurgents assaulted the outpost with small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and B-10 recoilless rifles. They killed eight American soldiers and wounded nearly two dozen others, making it one of the worst attacks on a U.S. outpost during the Afghan war. And just try not to think of the recent reports about Russia-paid bounties to Taliban forces for killing American soldiers.

With a script by Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy, based on The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper, the film emerges as an action thriller which never loses sight of the futility of the war being fought. Tapper, the chief Washington correspondent for CNN, wrote his 2012 bestseller to highlight what he termed the “deep-rooted inertia of military thinking.” Praising the book, Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer said: “If you want to understand how the war in Afghanistan went off the rails, read this book.”

You could also watch this intensely powerful movie, which Lurie directs with a keen understanding of the mechanics of battle and an overriding humanism that puts flesh-and-blood on the bones of the tragic story being told about Bravo Troop 3-61 CAV, one of the most decorated units of the 19-year conflict. Eastwood excels in the key role of Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha.