'Outside The Wire' film review: High on action, low on substance

It’s an explosive premise, literally. But the film, in its essence, is anti-war.

Published: 24th January 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd January 2021 02:04 PM   |  A+A-

A still from the film

A still from the film

Express News Service

Year 2036. There is a civil war in Eastern Europe. Russia wants to win back Ukraine. And a Ukrainian revolution group is trying to maintain sovereignty at any cost.

So when two countries are fighting each other in a bloody battle, who is going to step in to save the day? Surely, by now, you know the answer.

The US, of course! It does what it does best. Plonks itself right in the middle of this unrest. With platoons in Europe and drone flights operated from the US—it looks at preventing a war-profiteer from getting his hands on nukes. That, in short, is what Outside the Wire all about.

It’s an explosive premise, literally. But the film, in its essence, is anti-war. The narrative comes from the perspectives of a cyborg super-soldier (Anthony Mackie as Captain Leo) and a drone pilot (Damson Idris as Lieutenant Harp).

The latter is sent to work under Leo as a punishment as Harp’s decision to bomb a site results in the death of two marines.

Never mind the fact that his decision saved the lives of 38 other soldiers. He is sent to active war zones, so he can learn the value of every life and the real-life repercussions of battle. Leo has a wicked sense of humour and an acerbic tongue, and the equation between him and Harp is reminiscent of the 2001 classic, Training Day. 

In between all this, Harp deals with his inner conflicts about the futilities of war. The conflicted soldier with much conviction acts as the perfect foil to Mackie’s cavalier Captain Leo.

However, their conversations about war and peace get rather tedious at times, with the film too beginning to meander after a point. It is the action sequences featuring Mackie and Idris that keep you hooked. The cyborg’s eagerness and the drone pilot’s hesitation make for tasteful contrast and add a lot of novelty to the well-orchestrated stunts.

Alas, all comes undone in the final stretch. There is a “twist”, rather, a sermon about war, civilian collateral damage, and more. This whole portion feels like an afterthought and sticks out like the many US drones in the clear skies of a war-torn country. The film works so long as the focus is firmly on the action. Soon as it steps away to deliver sermons, it begins to feel jaded and discursive. In summary, it’s another Netflix film that is high on action and boasts a great cast, but as for the substance, you are better off looking elsewhere.


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