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Outside the Wire
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Mikael Hafstrom
scr Rob Yescombe, Rowan Athale
prd Ben Pugh, Erica Steinberg, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Anthony Mackie, Jason Spire
with Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Michael Kelly, Pilou Asbaek, Emily Beecham, Enzo Cilenti, Henry Garrett, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Brady Dowad, Gabor Krausz, Louis Boyer, Velibor Topic
release US/UK 15.Jan.21
21/US Netflix 1h54
Is it streaming?
Fast-paced and sharply well-designed, this futuristic war thriller is packed with gritty action and seamless effects. The script throws elements from news headlines into a blender with standard action movie tropes, which makes the plot effortless to follow, even without paying very close attention. Raging machismo accompanies massive shootouts and earth-rattling explosions, which are all this movie is really about. But even if it's mindless, it's skilfully (ahem!) executed.
Following war in 2036 Eastern Europe, US troops are sent as peacekeepers alongside robot soldiers, known as "gumps". But ruthless warlord Victor (Asbaek) is on the rampage. Meanwhile at a control centre in Nevada, drone pilot Harp (Idris) disobeys an order to hold fire. As discipline, he's sent into the fray and teamed with Captain Leo (Mackie), an advanced android. Their top-secret mission outside the safe zone is to stop Victor from launching a rogue nuclear attack. As they battle through the rampant chaos, they get some help from weary aid worker Sofiya (Beecham).
The interaction between humans and robots is superbly rendered in an earthy, realistic style reminiscent of District 9. The narrative, on the other hand, is structured like a videogame, with a series of skirmishes and tasks that play out in epic set-pieces while Leo performs flashy action hero moves, massacring shady-looking baddies like Liam Neeson on speed. This leaves everything feeling a bit cold and distant, thankfully tempered by Harp's more personal perspective and reminders of the human cost of war.
Mackie has a lot of fun with the over-serious Leo, barking orders and glowering with intent. A bone-dry sense of humour helps make him likeable, even if he's utterly unbothered by all the people he's killing. Opposite him, Idris is terrific, giving the film a blast of heart and soul as a young soldier thrown in at the deep end, genuinely unsettled as his worldview is challenged on every level. And Beecham very nearly walks off with the film as the bracingly feisty Sofiya.
Director Hafstrom choreographs each set-piece with precision, keeping the adrenaline flowing. While there are strong thematic elements lurking in the background, they're only here to add a hint of texture, because the script never tries to make a point beyond noting that collateral damage is a bad thing. Instead, the focus is on the whizzy and violent action; even Harp's moral dilemmas are never terribly complex. But the relentless mayhem and indulgent twists sustain the overlong running time.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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