During a sports match in Australia, an attack happens. The alien invasion and occupation starts, leaving the locations to their own devices in defending themselves, surviving, and trying to keep living life as best they can.
Directed and written by Luke Sparke with additional dialogue by Felix Williamson, Occupation is an interesting take on the alien invasion film that takes some of its cues from war films where the very human enemy invades by force and keeps itself in power with violence and internment. Here the enemy may not be human, but they do use very human tactics, separating people, segregating them, using violence and scare tactics, using everything they can to get the upper hand. The people being invaded or occupied may be the people of Australia here, something Hollywood films do very rarely, it does not change the stakes or how things are done. The film makes it clear that the one small town shown is not the only one under attack and the world’s well-being is at stake. Here the characters are what makes the film. They are built in a way that makes them relatable with mostly regular people, living their regular lives. Once the occupation starts, they have to figure out how to live in a situation and a world they do not have the training or capacity for.
These characters are played with talent and aplomb by a fairly diverse cast. In the lead of Matt Simmons, one of the few characters semi-equipped to deal with the situation, is Dan Ewing who does good work playing a believable leading man, one who takes charge at times whether he likes it or not. Ewing playing him as tough yet with a touch of vulnerability, giving him a likability that brings the viewer into the story and the occupation the characters find themselves in. Playing his girlfriend and a character who turns out to be a strong force in the group of survivors is actress Stephanie Jacobsen as Amelia Chambers. Her presence on screen is magnetic and she gives one of the best performances of the film, bringing the viewer further in and hooking them to her character and the story at hand. The human cast as whole shows different reactions to the invasion, from the family father played by Temuera Morrison to the teen daughter played by Izzy Stevens, to the pregnant woman played by Rhiannon Fish, all of them work as an ensemble to create a believable group synergy as they fight for their own survival and that of the human race.
The film’s cinematography by Tony O’Loughlan and its music by Christopher Elves elevate the film to the looks and sounds of a major blockbuster. The film’s central story is well addressed in its images’ style and the score’s grandiose feel at times. The film goes all out in terms of giving images and sounds that make the viewer feel something while they watch the story, feelings that eventually connect them to the film and its characters. The way the film is shot takes advantage of the locations and the invasion itself, looking great while it does so. The music has this orchestral and cinematic way of accompanying the images that one would expect from a much bigger, much more expensive film. Both of these bring a lot to the table and show that neither of these should be neglected when making a film.
Adding to the performances and the images are the special effects, practical and computerized, add a lot to the film and keep it feeling like a proper sci-fi film, bringing looks to the alien invaders and their invasion that are top notch. The work done under special effects supervisor Julian Summers and the visual effects by CVD EFX are great and they manage to add to the film and never yank the viewer out of scenes where they are more present. The realistic application of these effects work wonders for the film and its story.
Occupation is a well-made sci-fi invasion romp that takes the subject and gives it a realism that works for it. Yes, the invasion is from aliens, but in terms of how it’s brought to the screen, it feels very real, using military tactics and ways that have been seen to invade and take over other countries, used on a global level here with a few people surviving and fighting back. The film has a quality to it that is hard to explain but makes it a fantastic watch.