DIRECTED BY: Mikael Håfström
STARRING: Anthony Mackie, Damon Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Enzo Cilenti, Kristina Tonteri-Young and Pilou Asbæk
Set in the future, Harp, a drone pilot, is sent into a deadly militarised zone where he finds himself working for Leo, an android officer, tasked to locate a doomsday device before the insurgents do.
Outside The Wire is the latest sci-fi/action film to come out from the Netflix production line, with the screenplay written by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale, and the film directed by Mikael Håfström, who previously directed The Rite and Escape Plan. Set in 2036, a violent civil war has erupted in Eastern Europe, and U.S troops are deployed as peacekeepers in this lawless new frontier that is controlled by a ruthless warlord named Viktor Koval, a ghost that few people have seen. In order to combat his growing power in the region, the Pentagon have deployed robotic soldiers, known as gumps, to active duty. We follow Lt. Harp, a drone pilot on Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, who goes against chain-of-command and carries out a drone strike when a convoy of US marines are ambushed by insurgents, resulting in the deaths of two marines but saving thirty-eight men. Due to disobeying a direct order, Harp is deployed to the demilitarised zone in Europe where the platoon is based to work under Captain Leo, who just happens to be an android that very few people know of his true identity. Leo reveals to Harp that they’ve going on a secret mission outside the wire to chase the ghost that is Viktor Koval as he looks set to obtain nuclear codes and launch a nuclear attack on the US.
The film delivers a decent setup with the US convoy being ambushed and we see first-hand how calculated and cold Lieutenant Harp when it comes to the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, as he disobeys a direct order from his superior in order to save the lives of most of the convoy, sacrificing two marines as collateral. It serves as an interesting journey arc for Harp as he’s deployed to Eastern Europe, into the demilitarised zone, and is made to witness and feel the weight of just how devastating his actions from thousands of miles away have been not only to his fellow marines, but the locals caught in this war. The film rests solely on the dynamic and chemistry between Damon Idris and Anthony Mackie and their back-and-forth together is one of the strengths of the film. Mackie gets to shine in the action sequences particularly, which are well choreographed for the most part, with some very well executed visual effects in relation to the gumps.
As the film progresses, it surprisingly becomes an anti-war film the deeper outside the wire Harp and Leo go, as they debate the complexities of war, as well as what it means to be human. While there’s some interesting moments to be found in these discussions between Harp and Leo, in execution with the grey-palette of most of the areas they go to, it all feels rather bland in execution. Take this as a nitpick, but having this set in Eastern Europe doesn’t really work authentically though as there’s no need for a linguistic either as practically everyone speaks English out of convenience to the audience. Outside of Mackie and Idris, the rest of the ensemble don’t really have much to work with here, so Michael Kelly and Emily Beecham don’t really get to shine with the material they’re handed and the buildup to Pilou Asbæk’s portrayal of Viktor Koval is incredibly underwhelming.
Outside The Wire is an action thriller that on paper has an interesting stance on war, but in execution it’s rather bland. The dynamic between Anthony Mackie Damon Idris at least make it a decent watch.