The ensemble is far from an acting showcase, offering serviceable performances for one-dimensional archetypes. Aaron Eckhart and Bridget Moynahan (as the sergeant and a rescued civilian, respectively) are the exceptions, elevating their roles with innate human conviction. Eckhart especially distinguishes himself, bringing an emotional and moral complexity to a part (and film) that doesn’t really deserve his efforts. Watching, I couldn’t help but think how he’d fit perfectly into an inspired Indiana Jones reboot; the fedora, the whip, the wry smile … but I digress (a flaw this film’s monotony will likely encourage.)

For all its technical prowess and aesthetic texture, Jonathan Liebesman’s directorial vision isn’t particularly inspired. The alien spacecrafts are interesting, particularly how they connect to form a bigger organism, but in the broader sense of how scenes are conceived and staged there’s a lack of invention.  

Liebesman even avoids depicting creative ways to destroy L.A. cityscape icons. That may be intentional so as to maintain an intimacy with this platoon’s experience (an admirable artistic choice), but in the end we’re left with zero money shots. That’s an odd omission for a film that is otherwise dutifully conventional. Everything’s well-produced, but nothing’s particularly memorable.

Still, despite its generic shortcomings, when the time comes for the sergeant’s singular decision of sacrifice to inspire the others to follow him into certain suicide (particularly after they’ve previously doubted him), I have to confess it gave me goose bumps. Battle: Los Angeles may not have earned my admiration, but at the very least it earned that moment. So that’s something.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  Soldiers have a tailgate party where beer is consumed and drunkenness depicted, including one instance of vomiting.
  • Language/Profanity:  Profanities are used regularly throughout, though not pervasively, including various uses of the s-word, a-word, and the Lord’s name used in vain a handful of times (both GD and JC). One use of the f-word late in the film.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  No sexual content, although one discussion and a few teasing references are made to one soldier’s virginity and his need to lose it. At the early tailgate party, there are beautiful young women partying with the soldiers, some kissing occurs, but nothing overtly sexual.
  • Violence:Consists of war-like violence throughout (intense gunfire, war zone activity, explosions, etc.). Not graphically bloody, but people are shot (including in the head), injured, burned, and killed, and the results are occasionally shown (including severe burns and gunshot wounds).  Violence against aliens is more graphic as we see aliens shot, bloodied, stabbed, carved up, dissected, and exploded. Also charred alien carcasses and remains. Oftentimes alien blood and other fluids spew violently out of their bodies during these moments of combat. Think of it as a PG-13 sci-fi Saving Private Ryan.