It seemed like just another ordinary day in this rural Australian community, as Matt (Dan Ewing) was at work on his construction job seeing about a new bypass that was taking far longer to complete than originally promised, Peter (Temuera Morrison) was driving his family through the region in their camper van, and Jackson (Charles Terrier) was preparing for the big football game that evening when he was informed by his girlfriend she was pregnant. But at that big game, which they were all attending, something peculiar occurred: lights in the night sky, followed by an ominous noise from above and then all Hell was unleashed as energy bolts were fired upon the stadium...
Yes, as you may have guessed, the aliens had arrived and they were none too happy, not because of anything we Earthlings had done but because they were after our precious resources and instead of asking nicely to maybe share, they burst in with all guns blazing demanding the whole kit and caboodle. We had been here before, in fact we had been here since the late nineteenth century and H.G. Wells mused over how satisfying it would be to lay waste to the lands he knew so well - in fictional form, anyway. But here was a lesser spotted Australian variant on the invasion subgenre of science fiction, achieved with all the vim and vigour of their Hollywood equivalents.
Or that was the idea, but there's a reason why Hollywood tends to be looked down on when they resorted to easy cliché in their science fiction movies, and Occupation did not escape that to any great satisfaction. Aside from kicking off at an Aussie rules football game, there was little to distinguish this from any other film taking its cue from, say, Independence Day from the nineties, which refashioned the seventies disaster epic to its own, soap opera inflected means. Though as much as that, this lifted its premise from John Milius's anti-Communist hit of the eighties Red Dawn, which had been remade within recent memory, except nobody remembered that flop.
The opening minute or two revealed where this heart lay as Ronald Reagan in his eighties pomp gave a speech to the United Nations about how the world should be banding together to combat an alien menace from outer space instead of fighting amongst ourselves. You might have hoped he was speaking metaphorically, but all the signs were Reagan genuinely believed the aliens were coming and they were not friendly, which explains his Star Wars defence initiative, a plan to put lasers in space that would destroy any missiles. Oh sure, we thought he wanted to aim them at the Soviets, but what if he wanted to head off any space invaders at the pass? What if he had seen all those fifties science fiction flicks and really believed something like that was within the bounds of possibility?
Writer and director here Luke Sparke certainly took all this to heart of Occupation was anything to go by, and his gung-ho approach made for a muscular but, alas, personality-free adventure. You would have found it easier to support the plucky Australians in their battle against the forces from above if they had not been strictly drawn from stock, and it was no coincidence that many of the actors here had served their time in the local soap operas, since that was what this resembled, Neighbours versus the Alien Menace, essentially. Not to say it wasn't serious in tone, in fact it was so serious it forgot to be fun, and Sparke struggled to conjure up much of interest for his cast to do when aside from the accents, it was a case of seen it all before. It was a pity, as this nation's genre fiction can be chock full of idiosyncrasies that makes it so enjoyable, yet you would not divine much of that here. It was slick, professional, but just that shade too soulless to enthuse the audience. That said, someone must have appreciated it because there was a sequel in 2019. Music by Christopher Elves.
[No extras on Altitude's Blu-ray, but the picture's clear and the sound booming.]