Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Occupation is obviously very low budget and deserves to be credited for its efforts to achieve blockbuster status on a shoestring."

A small town in the middle of nowhere. A disparate group of families, locals, tourists and drifters. A sports event which everyone has been looking forward to - but suddenly, the players are distracted. There are noises overhead, flashing lights. Then they come - armoured footsoldiers, species unknown, gunning down everyone in sight.

Or not quite everyone. Through the simple expedient of running away, a ragtag group of former Neighbours and Home And Away stars, plus random New Zealander Temeura Morrison, escape into the woods and the relative safety of a makeshift camp. There they focus on survival - along with a bit of interpersonal drama, romance and angst over missing friends - until it becomes clear that supplies are running out, nobody is coming to the rescue and if they want to take their homes back from the invaders, they're going to have to take action themselves.

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With inevitable echoes of 2011's Tomorrow, When The War Began (minus the unacknowledged racism) and its predecessor, Red Dawn, this is more a war film than a piece of science fiction. Writer/director Luke Sparke gives his ensemble a bit of military experience and technical knowledge so that their exploits don't come across as totally ridiculous but he's a lot less skilled when it comes to rounding them out as people or giving them convincing dialogue. Potentially interesting speculation about the aliens' motives and questions around the ethics of colonialism are too quickly lost amid the standard macho posturing. The characters simply aren't interesting enough to keep us on the edge of our seats during the flaccidly directed action scenes. Morrison could outclass the other actors in his sleep, but it's still disappointing to see him doze through his performance. Ultimately, we're left to explore a potentially dynamic situation in entirely the wrong company.

Occupation is obviously very low budget and deserves to be credited for its efforts to achieve blockbuster status on a shoestring. Although many design elements are derivative, a serious effort has been made with the world building and the scope of the story. The special effects are variable, some coming off surprisingly well, though of course it only takes one bad one to destroy believability and ruin the overall effect. The biggest problem is the absence of tension. For all their gurning and protestations, with the fate of humanity in the balance, it's hard to believe that any of these people really care.

Reviewed on: 17 Jan 2019
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Occupation packshot
After their small Australian country town is annihilated by an overwhelming airborne attack, a group of civilians evade capture and discover they are now among the last remaining survivors of an extraterrestrial invasion engulfing the entire planet.

Director: Luke Sparke

Writer: Luke Sparke, Felix Williamson

Starring: Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Stephany Jacobsen, Rhiannon Fish, Zac Garred, Izzy Stevens, Charrles Terrier

Year: 2018

Runtime: 119 minutes

Country: Australia


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