REVIEW: ‘Outside The Wire’ Is Saved By Its Leads’ Chemistry

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Outside the Wire

Outside The Wire is a Netflix Original Film directed by Mikael Håfström and written by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale. It is produced by Automatik Entertainment and 42 Films. After disobeying direct orders and causing the death of two soldiers, drone pilot Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) is reassigned to the command of Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie); Leo is a next-generation android soldier, designed to be the future of armed combat. Together, Leo and Harp venture into Eastern Europe to stop warlord Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk) from gaining control of a series of nuclear missiles and triggering Armageddon.

On paper that sounds like a solid pitch for a film; the concept is unique and has all the hallmarks of a solid action thriller. However, where the film fumbles is the execution. Yescombe and Athale’s script raises some deep questions, particularly about the horrors of war and the nature of artificial intelligence. However, it doesn’t dig too deep into them-which is a shame because the themes of artifical intelligence are really intriguing, especially concerning Leo’s character. Unlike Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation or the Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Leo isn’t hung up on the nature of his humanity. In fact he’s fairly witty, cracking jokes at Harp’s expense, and surprisingly emotional while meeting a group of children.

A large part of this is due to Mackie’s excellent performance. Mackie brings all of his signature wit and charisma to the role of Leo, whether it’s a fight scene or a conversation with Idris’ Harp. He also steals every scene he’s in, especially with the revelation that he’s an android. When Harp, shell-shocked, asks “What are you?”, Leo responds: “Your commanding officer, and I’m giving you sixty seconds to deal with it.” Mackie, who also produced the film, has clearly thrown himself into the role and it works. Idris is also a revelation as Harp, as he delivers an emotional performance laced with anger and confusion. Harp has been behind a screen for most of his military career, and this is his first time in active combat; naturally he has a visceral reaction to the carnage that occurs.

The directing is a mixed bag. Håfström’s previous films include Escape Plan, which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone escaping from the world’s most impregnable prison. He knows how to handle character dynamics, as shown by Mackie and Idris’ interactions, and he clearly is no stranger to high concept stories. The production design by Kevin Phipps also has the right touch of futurisc elements, particularly with Leo’s body. His skin can turn transparent, revealing a hexacomb structure with steel rods structured to look like a skeleton. Also the action is intense and rather gory, with blood flying everywhere.

However, the camerawork tended to be far too shaky for my taste, and Håfström peppers the film with far too many smash cuts to previous scenes. A filmmaker should be able to trust that his audience is following along with the story, and Håfström is essentially performing the film version of jangling his keys in the audience’s faces. The film also has a protracted, convoluted climax that doesn’t feel earned in the slightest due to a plot twist that comes out of nowhere.

Outside The Wire has a solid, if underdeveloped concept-but manages to hold the audience’s attention with the chemistry and performance between its two leads. It would make a solid double bill with Code 8, as both explore similar themes and feature leads who have been a solid presence in genre projects.

Outside The Wire is currently available to stream on Netflix.

 

Outside the Wire
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Outside The Wire has a solid, if underdeveloped concept-but manages to hold the audience’s attention with the chemistry and performance between its two leads. It would make a solid double bill with Code 8, as both explore similar themes and feature leads who have been a solid presence in genre projects.