Outside the Wire — A Review
An action film that fills every cliché of its niche with no innovative filming techniques or storytelling. As fast-paced and obscure the editing, as fast to be forgotten.
The setting is a war-torn eastern Europe in the year 2036. Technological advancements enabled modern robotics to replace the human soldier. While humans are still just as prevalent as their robotical counterpart (for whatever reason), just to go on bullying the so-called Gumps, back in base.
The conflict is set in Ukraine where a Russian backed militia, led by the ‘ruthless warlord Victor Koval’, fights a war against the Ukraine resistance to incorporate Ukraine back to Russia. To whose predecessor, the USSR, it was once a part of.
The protagonist, Lieutenant Harp, is a dispassionate and highly-effective drone operator, who’s never been in actual combat and flew air strikes from the US mainland, while killing ‘163 insurgents’ over three years.
Until he disobeys a direct order and gets sent to captain Leo, right at the frontline, as punishment to see the consequences of his actions upfront. Just to discover that Leo is no human-being, but a next generation cyborg, ‘who’s not like us [humans]’.
The plot then unfolds in a series of fights, as the duo pursuits their mission in enemies’ territory (‘beyond the wire’) to meet a promising intel, with the final goals of finding and neutralizing Victor Koval.
Throughout the numerous explosions and killings, Harp develops a deep distrust towards his captain, just to find that there is a second, more dangerous enemy within.
The lead actors perform from average to bad. Damson Idris, who plays Herp, the protagonist, does a good job with no outstanding or disappointing performance. While his counterpart, Leo, played by Anthony Mackie, does his job even worse and tries to lift some dialogues up with awkward smirks and irony (though just as much the fault of the script) that feel neither convincing, nor organic.
The story, written by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe, is blunt, conventional and biased. There are just very few characters that have any important role. And those that do, have no depth or meaningful inner conflicts to solve.
The pressure and urgency to act does come from Victor Koval (why do I always hear Viktor Orbán?) opposite to which his real appearance and role in the story shows only in the last quarter. As a result, he feels almost non-existent and, worst for the story, insignificant.
For more than 60 minutes, there is the potential of a nuclear strike, and yet, when talking about the challenges Herp and Leo face, it seems to be just as easy to catch Victor in the end, as it was in the very beginning. There is no additional pressure or difficulty adding up. This is because there are no changes of course in Victors’ actions that would give the hunt a twist or turn.
Even when considering the fact that the whole plot hopes to create its greatest tension through the addition of a second, then final antagonist. It still fails hopelessly to create any sympathy for the main characters and surprise or tension in the viewer when facing the final twist and conflict.
Speaking of which, the whole film has from the beginning to end a clear pro-American agenda, such that it is almost impossible to not feel deeply troubled by the moral implications Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe make towards american involvement and intentions in foreign conflicts.
American troops are not normal soldiers, they are ‘peacekeepers in a lawless new frontier’, as it is ‘a war too hot for the UN, so [the US] are in the middle of it’. Simply put, the US stepped up heroically to save Ukraine and preserve western ideals (when it would much more probable, US interests in Eastern Europe). To protect its sovereignty, ironically, the US created an American safe zone spreading for around 10% of all of Ukraine.
To top it all off, the final conflict revolves around counter-American tendencies in the antagonist, who wants the US out of the country, due to the endless war it provokes and collateral damage it created, particularly through drones.
But, instead of using this point of view to deliver an unconventional, more complex and critical message, the writers decided to find a disappointing, dull and cheap solution to secure the moral authority of the US. They add an extreme conclusion to the otherwise valuable point of view and voila! there it is again: The good old American patriot who fights heroically against the good old antagonist, who’s on the verge of nuking the US.
Can he stop him from destroying major US cities, like New York or Los Angeles? Will American civilians die because of the wars the US fights all over the world? Can Herp ‘save the world’ by stopping a nuclear strike on the US? Watch the film and be just as little surprised by the ending as I was.
There is not much to say otherwise, as the other departments make no better job. The cinematographer Michael Bonvillain does a particularly terrible job in using a shaky camera and lenses that have such big lens flares and so much unnecessary, yet intentionally missing focus that it is hard to see anything sharp and clear.
Additionally, there is the colour-grading that shoots far beyond the mark of natural colour tones. In one scene, around the third quarter of the film, the otherwise warm, hazelnut skin colour of Damson Idris becomes nearly black. And I am talking of a tone as black as the colour of the letters you’re reading right now.
To make the matter even worse, the conversation was shot from different angles and only one shot, through the wind-shield, gave him this unbearable look. Which, in turn, created a stark contrast between the angles, mostly good, except for the one that’s terrible, while constantly cutting from one to the other.
If there is one film you should watch after a long workday to fall asleep — it’s this. An action film that fills every cliché of its niche with no innovative filming techniques or storytelling. As fast-paced its editing, as fast to be forgotten.
My rating: 4 out of 10.
Where to Watch
The movie premiered on Netflix on the 15th of January 2021
You disagree with this review? Then please leave a comment. There is nothing as enjoyable as a well-mannered discussion about the subjects I love.
My name is Moritz Reischl. I am an Amateur-Videographer and Photographer from Berlin. I write art and movie reviews, next to essays about philosophy and psychology. My goal is to discuss good art and add meaning to other people’s lives with insightful ideas.