Occupation Movie Review

Written by Greg Fisher

Released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Directed by Luke Sparke
Written by Luke Sparke and Felix Williamson
2018, 119 minutes, Rated R

Dan Ewing as Matt Simmons
Temuera Morrison as Peter Bartlett
Stephanie Jacobsen as Amelia Chambers
Rhiannon Fish
Zachary Garred
Izzy Stevens as Bella Bartlett
Charles Terrier as Jackson


Sometimes, a straightforward movie is exactly how it should be. If there were any sinister subplots, backstabbers waiting in the wings, or any insipid love triangle, Occupation would have fallen apart. Writer/director Luke Sparke seems keenly aware of this, and allows his script the amount of branches one would find in a backwoods family tree. Sparke keeps it simple, streamlined, and allows this film to become more than perhaps it rightly deserves to be.

The premise and feel of the movie are a deviation of cult-classic Red Dawn, substituting aliens for communists. Or, in keeping with the Australian setting and more for the millennial generation, look to Tomorrow When the War Began. During a rugby match (because, of course), aliens invade an Australian town, complete with warships and laser guns. While a massive ruggers vs. aliens beatdown is a sorely missed opportunity, the story instead follows a group of townspeople that escape the battle and the ensuing imprisonment of the humans. Cut forward in time, and the humans have become a mean and effective guerilla team battling the alien occupation and trying to get the Earth, and their loved ones, back.

This movie hits a very specific and arrow sweet spot that makes it thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The actors, director, and script itself never take themselves too seriously, yet they never devolve into the boilerplate SyFy original schlock. All of these elements fire proficiently enough for the viewer to sit back and enjoy. The effects are surprisingly good for a film with a budget of only $6 million. The ships look slick, the lasers good enough for the audience to buy them, and (perhaps least of all, but still decent) the practical effects for the alien costuming does their job. The cast, many sci-fi television veterans, handle the roles well, while perhaps none stand out. The most complex backstory given is to Temueura Morrison's (yes, Jango Fett) character, whose ex-gang banger has just been released from prison and is trying to get out of town with his wife and stepkids. His arc, while still more of a lazy curvy line, stands out more than the others, but the viewer is apt to let this slide, as the characters are real enough to squeak on by. While no one stands out, it can be equally said that no one stands out for crass overacting or complete lack of ability, as one unfortunately sees in genre fare at this level. The cast gives (mostly) real portrayals, and the script flows well as far as the dialogue. While the tempt and feel come off the tracks slightly in the final act, even this doesn't take away from the overall fun of the movie.

In a world captivated by the Sharknado craze, a smart director with a dedicated, talented cast can say, "I can do this a little better. At least, I can do this without Tara Reid." Indeed, Sparke does it with more panache and style, without pandering or stooping to be something it is not. This can be commended, and should be. Please, watch Occupation, and have some fun.


Movie: 3.5 Star Rating Cover

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