Directed by: Luke Sparke
Starring: Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Stephany Jacobson
In a small town in Australia, in the middle of a local Australian Rules Football match, the local residents find themselves hurled into the middle of an alien invasion. A few are able to survive the initial onslaught and escape to the hills. Over time they develop the skills needed to fight back against the invaders.
Occupation is a very derivative invasion movie, borrowing heavily from well-known sources but remains a very entertaining action movie.
The most obvious comparison is with Red Dawn (either version), in which a small US town is overrun with Soviet soldiers. This isn't just because of the number of teens involved but the way the invasion begins and the amount of panic being generated. It also borrows a lot of its character interplay from the original version of V.
The film takes time to provide some character exposition before the explosions kick off. As mentioned above, the town's weekend is centred around an Australian Rules match, which sees the return of the previous captain, Matt Simmons (Ewing), back after a long injury recovery). While the fans might appreciate his return, the current captain, Jackson, isn't so keen to be sharing the pitch with this has-been.
The film does a good job of making both characters quite likeable, when separated from each other but there is deep-seated animosity when they are in each other's space. The best character however is Peter Bartlett, who was just passing through town with his family when the invasion struck. We learn that Peter had just got out of prison and was trying to reintegrate with his estranged family - not an easy task when they are forced to leave members behind in order to survive themselves.
Because the film takes place over a long period of time, it needs to allow some growth among its chief characters. This is both a plus and a negative. On the one hand, yes, we get to know some of the characters better over time, between the numerous action set-pieces. However it does mean that this is a very long film - and it seems like it might have been even longer.
I get the impression that we were meant to get to know the alien invaders a bit better than we do. There are tiny snippets here and there to show that the aliens aren't just invading, but settling and have brought their families with them. If such scenes had existed but were edited out to keep the run-time down then it would explain how we get to its final scenes. As it stands, it is a bit jarring to say the least but it could be that some of the scenes that explain their sentiments were cut out.
Whatever misgivings I have about the plot's trajectory, it doesn't get in the way of the fact that this is an entertaining alien invasion movie with a good cast and a decent enough budget to put decent fx and set-pieces up on the screen. Apparently the sequel is already in production and I for one am intrigued to see how this story develops.
6 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)