TL;DR – An interesting film that attempts to integrates some complex issues, but could not make the landing stick.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this film.
Outside the Wire Review –
I have been looking forward to an exciting action science fiction film for a long time. I do like that sort of real, sort of future, mash-up like we got in Edge of Tomorrow, but it is a hard line to get right. Well, today we get a film that walks that line into interesting, even if it clear that they don’t know a whole lot about Ukraine.
So to set the scene, it is 2036, and Eastern Europe (Ukraine) has collapsed into war with the USA controlling to the border to stop the chaos spreading. Along this border, a platoon comes under attack and Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris), a drone pilot breaks with command to kill a potential target but taking out two marines as collateral. As a punishment, he is sent to the front line to meet Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), an android military officer, to gain some perspective on war’s realities through first-hand experience.
I think that it must be great for writers now that Russia can be bad guys again. There has been this long awkward period post the end of the Cold War where everyone was not sure how to handle the former superpower, but recent events have made everything a lot easier. So drawing on the current conflict in Ukraine for your setting makes a lot of sense. Adding the extra layer of Russia propping up local warlord Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk), they lose control of, and you have a plausible scenario. However, not to be that person but Ukraine gave back all its nukes in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances which they traded them for guarantees that Russia would not compromise its territorial integrity … so you know that went well.
While the set up might not work in the context of history, it does create an interesting start for this film. A civil war that creates a conflict zone that could turn at any moment, a fanatic after nuclear weapons, and a ticking clock to put pressure on everything. This is added to by the leading combo of Leo and Harp. Harp is the newbie on the ground, but he has extensive experience in the skies. It lets him be the audience insert character to the conflict while not being a total liability. On the other side, Leo has a righteous mission, but it not entirely by the book. This creates a conflict that feels natural as they are coming from two very different perspectives.
The action scenes work well because Anthony Mackie’s physicality matches well with how his character moves. You see this in those times where they eschew guns for more hand to hand combat moments. The action scenes are also used to help move the story along or building the world around them. Given the relatively small cast, this makes those scenes even more critical for the narrative.
Things don’t work as well in the themes that the film is exploring, not that they are bad, just that don’t commit to them as far as possible. One of the things the film is critiquing is the use of drone warfare. The removed clinical setting where collateral damage is just a line in the after report and not real people’s lives. It is also critical of America’s dependence on drone warfare and its interference in wars to destabilise others. This is the narrative groundwork that film makes, but then it can’t commit to following that through and integrating current US foreign and military policy walking it back in the third act. Also if you are going to put GPS up on the screen, make sure it is for Ukraine and not Budapest, Hungary.
In the end, do we recommend Outside of The Wire? Well, I did feel a little disappointed that it didn’t integrate what it set out to explore as well as it could have. However, that aside, I found the film to have thrilling action set pieces, and Anthony Mackie & Damson Idris make a good team. So I would recommend it on that point alone, even if it does not quite stick the landing. If you liked Outside The Wire, we would also recommend Ad Astra.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Outside the Wire
Directed by – Mikael Håfström
Story by – Rob Yescombe
Screenplay by – Rob Yescombe & Rowan Athale
Music by – Michael Bonvillain
Cinematography by – Michael Bonvillain
Edited by – Rickard Krantz
Production/Distribution Companies – Automatik & Netflix
Starring – Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Pilou Asbæk, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Bobby Lockwood, Enzo Cilenti, Henry Garrett & Velibor Topic
Rating – Australia: MA15+;