Film Review: Outside the Wire
Outside the Wire
Director: Mikael Håfström
42 Films and Automatik Entertainment
Streaming on Netflix: 01.15
There’s little that I like better than smart science fiction that delves into complex sociopolitical or existential themes. And if it can incorporate some killer action sequences in the process, I’m OK with that. As such, Outside The Wire is a new, futuristic military thriller starring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Detroit, the Avengers franchise).
Outside The Wire takes place in the year 2036 during an armed conflict in Eastern Europe, where Russia is once again trying to seize control of Ukraine. The United States has dropped in to “keep the peace” with the help of drones and ground troops, including mechanized foot soldiers known as “Gumps” (presumably because Forrest Gump was the perfect soldier, never questioning orders and never tiring).
Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris, Snowfall, Black Mirror) is a maverick drone pilot who is pulled from duty after disobeying a direct order, and is sent right into the action on the ground, where he is paired with Leo (Mackie), a top-secret android officer who is on a special mission to stop a nuclear attack. Harp is wary of Leo, who reminds him constantly that they are not partners, that the young LT is his subordinate, and who behaves in a disarmingly human fashion, to the point of cursing constantly and mercilessly teasing his charge. But he’s also in awe of this marvel of technology and knows that his best chance of getting out of this alive is to stick close.
Director Mikael Håfström (1408, The Rite) handles the relentless action with aplomb and knows how to create a strong sense of atmosphere. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Rob Yescombe (Rambo: The Video Game) and Rowan Athale (Wasteland) is filled with promising ideas that never quite seem to mesh together. When things go in a philosophical direction and get into the moral dilemmas of warfare, this is an ultra-violent sci-fi war picture that’s more interested in the things that go boom than the ones that make you stop and think.
Mackie does his best to make the most of his opportunity to step out of the background, though even then, Lt. Harp is the protagonist here. But Mackie throws himself into the role, excelling in the action sequences and bringing a lot of presence to a role that’s basically Jeremy Renner’s character from Hurt Locker mixed with the Terminator. Idris is likable—he does a fine job, though we never really get to know his character or feel a strong connection to him. He’s also quite generic. Emily Beecham (Into The Badlands, Little Joe) is great in her supporting role, though she could have also benefited from a more fully developed character.
The biggest problem with Outside the Wire is that it’s so over-the-top, warzone violent—including violence perpetrated against women—that it’s a bit much for a turn-off-your-brain-entertainment movie, but it’s too silly to be taken seriously as an exploration of the brutality of warfare, though it certainly aims to explore that theme. It’s also the kind of science fiction that would have you believe that in a matter of less than two decades, we’re going to have fully functioning, if experimental, artificial intelligence that can pass for human in every way, but apart from that, technology will remain essentially the same, making its vision of the future too specific and too vague at the same time.
If you’re looking for slam-bang action and you like military thrillers, Outside the Wire is a fair use of two hours in front of the television, but it had the potential to be a thoughtful and memorable film that worked on multiple levels and had lasting value. As it stands, viewers are likely to forget it almost instantly. –Patrick Gibbs