How war drama The Outpost recreates one of the bloodiest battles in Afghanistan
Rod Lurie was staring a deadline in the face. The Outpost, the director's upcoming film about the Battle of Kamdesh in the Afghanistan War, had a limited budget and, most importantly, time. Getting a shot done quickly was at a premium. That fact allowed Lurie to get crafty, specifically for an approximately 35-minute-long goliath of a battle sequence that encompasses the climax of the movie.
"Normally, for sequences like that, I've heard [of] Michael Bay having up to a dozen to 15 cameras running at the same time," Lurie tells EW. "We had one camera. Everything had to be perfect."
The Outpost's climax retells the events of Oct. 3, 2009 in vivid detail. That day a force of 400 Taliban assaulted a crew of 53 soldiers in Kamdesh, Afghanistan. Staff sergeant Clinton Romesha (played in the film by Scott Eastwood) and Ty Carter (Caleb Landry Jones) were vastly outnumbered. But they would survive as heroes. The full account of the day's events can be found in the best-selling book the film is based on, written by CNN's Jake Tapper.
The Outpost was shot in Bulgaria behind the vision of Lurie (Straw Dogs), a West Point graduate (and former writer for EW). Filming took place over 32 days; before this, the actors went through basic training in preparation for rigorous action sequences.
Eastwood had sustained a significant injury not long before this. "I was only probably nine weeks out from breaking my ankle when we started to have some serious action sequences we had to do. I just remember thinking how crazy it was that two months ago, I couldn't walk, and now, I'm in a war movie," Eastwood tells EW. "I think [Lurie] did an incredible job of making this film feel super kinetic and visceral. Like you're in it the whole time with them. You live in it. You feel it."
One of Lurie's techniques to making the action feel authentic was to have as many former military on set and even on camera. "When you hire the actual veterans, they're just more camera-ready," Lurie says, "But also they understand the essence of the character much better." This proved critical when Eastwood broke his ankle, since they needed to move around the production schedule to account for his healing. "The secret silver lining is it was about two more weeks to rehearse. And so I took my camera people and I took my stuntman and we pre-visualized every action sequence. Every one. To the point where every time they took cover, every bullet, where the bullet would land, we did it exhaustively over and over again."
When it came time to bring out the weaponry and vehicles prominently featured in the battle, Lurie and director of photography Lorenzo Senatore put audiences side-by-side with the soldiers as they're getting pelted by enemy fire. The pair tinkered with the ALEXA Mini camera so the inner machinery of the camera would be in a backpack while the stripped-down body was carried by the stud operator Sasha Proctor. Senatore had done something similar in a previous project, allowing the camera to act as their Steadicam. They would later use a drone attached to the camera to mimic the camera hovering briefly over tarps in a scene with Jones' Carter.
In a scene with Jones' Carter, which you can watch in the exclusive clip available above, Carter is shown coming into his own as a soldier as he's mentored by those around him. While previously ridiculed by the crew for his lack of efficiency and camaraderie, Carter is driven and focused like never before. This comes close to the true-life story of Carter, who tells EW that while he was "different" from his Marine Corps peers, "just because you don't get along with someone doesn't mean you don't value their opinion or their lives."
Set for a limited theatrical/VOD release on Friday, The Outpost was made to honor those who'd sacrificed their lives. Lurie hoped more could see the movie in the big screen, but still hopes that message translates. "If I can't fight with my brothers, the least I can do is honor them," he says. And I've been waiting for a long time to be able to do that."