Most alien action invasion films tell the story of he infiltration from beginning to end like Independence Day. But this film is a little more like District 9. Whereas that film begins at the end of the invasion, this film is simply the tip of the iceberg. It shows the events of the first 24hrs of an invasion. There's no cinematic happy ending where all the ships are simultaneously and conveniently destroyed, the heroes don't get to go home right after, and they're not greeted by their loved ones smack dab in the middle of a war zone. It's as realistic as Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan—soldiers going into battle, genuinely terrified of dying, and eager to find an all-encompassing solution to their problem.
Aaron Eckhart is a born leader, which was proven by his previous performance in The Dark Knight. Ramon Rodriguez, who is best known for his frazzled performance in Transformers 2, stepped up to the plate, graduating from goofy sidekick to respected martyr. Fellow soldiers, played by Cory Hardrict ("Lincoln Heights"), Ne-Yo, Will Rothhaar (Hearts in Atlantis), Jim Parrack ("True Blood"), and Noel Fisher ("The Riches"), played it like they were in Iraq and the insurgents were flesh and blood. The best soldier, however, was Michelle Rodriguez, who played the sole female warrior with the inside intel. The aliens themselves resemble District 9 creatures, mixed with Terminator robots, as did their ships. The cinematography and guerilla camerawork reminded me of Black Hawk Down and "Friday Night Lights."
But the reason to watch this new entry into the genre, above all else, is for the underlying army credo. At the end, the remaining soldiers succeed in taking down the West-coast-based mothership, and now know how to disable the rest and level the playing field. When told to enjoy the luxuries of a makeshift camp, decked out with new clothes, food, water, and cots, they choose to rehydrate and reengage. Hidden within this sci-fi tale is the reality of real life war. The aliens are just like any other civilization in search of resources. And their soldiers are as mechanical as ours. They are treated like machines, redeployed for four or five tours. They are trained to be relentless and fearless. It's a celluloid tribute to the dedication of our armed forces: the true superheroes.