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Review: Aussies unite to repel alien invasion in nimble sci-fi thriller ‘Occupation’

Review: Aussies unite to repel alien invasion in nimble sci-fi thriller ‘Occupation’
Dan Ewing and Stephanie Jacobsen in the movie "Occupation." (Saban Films)

Borrowing freely from “Red Dawn,” “V” and “Independence Day,” the impressively grand science-fiction thriller “Occupation” tells the story of small-town Australians who put differences aside to resist an alien invasion. The movie’s derivative but lively and has a surprising scope.

Writer-director Luke Sparke (with dialogue assistance from Felix Williamson) starts the picture on an ordinary day in a pleasant-looking community, riven with old rivalries and grudges. On the afternoon of a big football match, the skies darken with menacing spacecraft and massive-scale mayhem ensues.

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After spending an entertaining half-hour introducing the characters and their town, Sparke leaps ahead to show how the heroes cope with being colonized by the aliens, who fled their own home planet after depleting their natural resources. Some humans fight back with violence; others are inclined to accept that this is the new normal.

From its opening Ronald Reagan quote to its persistent Steven Spielberg-esque lens flares, “Occupation” aims to evoke old-fashioned American blockbusters. Sparke lacks the budget to realize his full vision (especially in the fairly tedious battle sequences), but the judiciously applied special effects do create a proper sense of awe.

More important, the film’s just as effective when it focuses on the people, not their plight. This is the rare action movie that’s almost more exciting when the characters put down their guns and take up an argument.

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‘Occupation’

Rated: R, for some language

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Playing: Starts July 20, AMC Universal CityWalk 19

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