You’ve been involved in some extremely impressive “how the hell did they find this guy/girl?” choices.
Most notably your Oscar-nominated discovery for Captain Phillips, where it took true inspiration to pluck Barkhad Abdi from obscurity. Even more impressive might be how you found so many truly excellent English-speaking Norwegians to bring another Paul Greengrass film to life - July 22. You even have experience in the Iraq/Afghanistan theatre of war in Green Zone (you’re clearly Greengrass’ go-to).
But when it comes to The Outpost, and otherwise accomplished and riveting war film, you dropped the ball. Hard.
Getting the right mix of actors in a war film isn’t easy. The audience can’t rely on costumes to understand differences in personality. There are only two real options for haircuts (crew or buzz), and there’s a prerequisite amount of bravado required to fit the mold in the first place. Back stories are equally uninteresting - there’s always someone back home they want to get back to, or they’re “just trying to get away from it all”. The only shading between all the beige and olive drab usually comes down to accent work (how thick and how many Southern accents you want). And if this is done wrong, they’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Speaking of, Orlando Bloom - why? He has a name and face people will recognize on a poster, fair enough, but he is far from the poster boy of Southern charm. His wonky handle on conveying gravitas while chewing grits was just a bit too much to swallow.
But it’s okay, his character is not the focal point of the story. For that, we have Scott Eastwood - a man whose name is as synonymous for B-movie action as it is for being the spawn of an A-list talent. S. Eastwood is part of a growing trend of second-hand, second-rate stars that take white privilege to new lows (Patrick Schwarzenneger, Max Irons, Maude Apatow, Emma Roberts… and now we can add Milo Gibson, who you also cast in The Outpost). All Eastwood’s character really has to do is growl, wince, and act heroic - and boy, does he evertry to conjure up papa Clint in those moments. The only reason I could look past it at all is because the filmmaking really sells everything else. You could put almost anyone into these intense and well-orchestrated action films and they would have sold it - probably even better.
Not to say all the casting choices didn’t work. Caleb Landry tries 150 percent harder than everyone else in every movie he’s in, always, and is reliably compelling and memorable. The other actors are less distinct and forgettable, but certainly get the job done, like a good soldier. And frankly, like a good war film.
It’s a back-handed way to say The Outpost is one of the most effective Afghanistan War films I’ve ever seen. The oners (single take action-sequences) are disciplined and motivated, the action itself is coherent, and the scale of the battle is quite breathtaking. Modern warfare will (hopefully) never replicate the scale of storming the beaches of Normandy, the trenches of the Western Front, or the Empirical Wars of centuries past, but seeing hundreds of Taliban descend from the hills is enough to make anyone in the audience sit up straight and say “oh shit.”
I just wished I wasn’t also saying that about some of the casting choices.