(Original Publication Date: July 23rd, 2018) By: John M Jerva
STARRING: Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Stephany Jacobsen, Rhiannon Fish, Zachary Garred, Izzy Stevens, Charles Terrier, Charles Mesure, Trystan Go, Felix Williamson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Aaron Jeffery, and Bruce Spence
DIRECTED BY: Luke Sparke
Official Synopsis: A town is suddenly plunged into darkness. In the sky, a fleet of spaceships appears. The aliens have been watching Earth for centuries; now they have arrived to seize control of our planet. As alien storm troopers cut a deadly swath through the countryside, a ragtag group of townspeople realize they must band together for a chance to strike back at the invaders in this explosive sci-fi film that grips from start to thrilling finish.
The Review: Sometimes, movies come out of nowhere and when you aren’t expecting it, a gem falls right into your lap. This is the case with the new Sci-Fi action film Occupation which comes to us from the land down under and which was helmed by Luke Sparke who is best known for directing Red Billabong. I didn’t know anything about the film until the publicity company sent me the email for it along with the screener. Upon viewing the promo spot, I immediately knew that this was something special and was very anxious to view it. I finally got the opportunity to see it over my vacation and I was right in my first gut reaction. Occupation is an indie Sci-Fi action extravaganza that plays out like it’s a big budget blockbuster. I know the money spent on this film is nowhere near the doe they ponied up for Independence Day but this film could certainly give the latter a run for its money at the multiplex. The tale of alien invasions of Earth have been done multiple times in the past but Occupation rises above the mold with great characters, thrilling action set pieces and special effects that were top tier for a movie like this.
The synopsis is simple enough. I would compare it to the original classic Red Dawn where a normal community with normal people are thrust into an extraordinary situation when their homes, loved ones and way of life are threatened by an invading army. In Red Dawn’s case, it was communists that threatened our freedom but here the stakes are amplified because it is an unknown alien force from another world. But just like Red Dawn, ordinary citizens take up arms and become freedom fighters in order to prevent humanity from being decimated.
The cast is top notch with Dan Ewing, who is best known for Home And Away and Power Rangers: R.P.M., and Stephany Jacobsen (Alex Cross, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) leading the way as Matt Simmons and Amelia Chambers. They are just a couple who are living a normal life with Matt trying to hold on to his past Rugby glory and Amelia working to help out her mother and brother. When push comes to shove, they become the leaders and heroes that they need to be. Ewing certainly has what it takes in the leading man action category and Jacobsen, who is no stranger to action, is solid and gives off a Sarah Conner vibe which is awesome. She clearly has the makings of an action star. The great Temuera Morrison is always wonderful in anything that he does and just like his roles in the big budgeted Star Wars films and Green Lantern, he excels in the drama and the action. The rest of the cast that makes up this motley crew of misfits are wonderful as well. What I also found refreshing is that the women were just as tough and kick ass as the men. There were no damsels in distress here folks.
Luke Sparke, who has only directed one other feature film as well as documentary, has the brightest future of anyone I know and this film is proof of that. Sparke clearly didn’t have the budget of a summertime blockbuster but you wouldn’t know it from the polished look of the film. He is a master craftsman who can certainly play with the big boys like Bay and given a bigger budget, he could certainly fill the seats at the cinema.
The plot is simple enough and we have seen it before but what makes Occupation different is that not only do you have the spectacle but you also have the human drama that makes you care for these people. We get to know them a little before the shit hits the fan and even when it does, the film takes sometime in the middle to flesh them out even more. Each character has a different reaction to what has happened to them and they play off each other well. The film does slow down in the middle but it is necessary to heighten the emotion when things happen later on.
Now, of course, I run an action movie website, so I’m going to talk about the action and this is where Occupation really excels. The initial invasion scene at the beginning is both riveting and harrowing and it again brings to mind the opening of Red Dawn when life changes in the blink of an eye. There are great action mounted moments throughout as well and one close quarters scene where our heroes must defend themselves from an alien unit in an old house is truly claustrophobic and choreographed nicely. The action in the whole film is solid and the camera and editing is clean and you can see it all unfolding which is more than I can say with some big studio films. In terms of finales, Occupation delivers the goods and gives the audience a well deserved pay off for spending the time and money to watch it. It is epic in scale and it is truly exciting because you literally do not know who will make it out alive. It’s a combination of old school military force versus high-tech alien firepower.
To sum it all up, Occupation is another example of how smaller, independent film making is overshadowing big budgets and bloated egos. There is no reason why this film shouldn’t have been given a wide release except for the fact that it doesn’t have huge star power attached to it. It’s a tight, gripping and harrowing tale of normal people doing banding together to preserve life as we know it. Occupation does end on a cliffhanger note and a sequel has already been announced (which is super cool by the way) but even if this was a stand alone film, the ending gives you a positive sense that everything is going to be OK and the last shot of the film is the best part of the movie. It shows what real heroes men and women are when they need to be and that love and determination can win the day.
VERDICT: ACTION-FLIX APPROVED! See this movie now!
Occupation is now is now on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital and VOD from Saban Films.