A new movie, released earlier this month on video on demand, details the heroism of a Maine-born army captain and his 53-person unit, who were tasked with holding down an outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan from Taliban fighters between 2006 and 2009.
“The Outpost” — directed by Rod Lurie and based on “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” a 2012 book by CNN journalist Jake Tapper — tells the story of Capt. Benjamin Keating, a Shapleigh native and 1997 graduate of Massabesic High School, and his comparatively small unit, Bravo Troop 3-61. The unit for three years maintained an isolated mountain outpost near the border with Pakistan, with strategic importance but which was, according to soldiers’ accounts, situated in such a way that the soldiers were often sitting ducks for ambush.
Keating was killed in November 2006 when he volunteered for a dangerous mission to drive an army truck loaded with supplies up to the camp, along treacherous 200-foot cliffs. He died when his truck fell off the cliff, and the outpost was later named Combat Outpost Keating in his honor.
The outpost operated until October 2009, when it was nearly overrun by Taliban fighters in what is known as the Battle of Kamdesh. With eight Americans killed and 27 wounded in the fighting, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan. Also killed in action was Sgt. Joshua Kirk, a South Portland native. The battle sequence takes up nearly half of the movie, which was filmed in 2018 in Bulgaria.
Bravo Troop 3-61 became one of the most decorated units in the Afghanistan engagement, earning 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals for valor, three Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars for valor, nine Silver Stars (two later upgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses) and two Medals of Honor.
In the film, Keating is played by Orlando Bloom, best known for his roles in major blockbusters like the “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The cast also includes Scott Eastwood (“Suicide Squad”) as Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha and Caleb Landry Jones (“Get Out”) as Specialist Ty Michael Carter. Jack Kesy (“Deadpool 2”) plays Kirk. Notably, Bloom attempts a Maine accent in the movie, which Maine viewers may or may not approve of.
The film was scheduled to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March of this year, but the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. It was released on all major video on demand platforms on July 3, and has received positive critical reviews, with a 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and with the respectful realism of the filmmaking and Bloom and Landry-Jones’ performances garnering specific praise.