January 15th, 2021
MOVIE: OUTSIDE THE WIRE
STARRING: ANTHONY MACKIE, DAMSON IDRIS, PILOU ASBAEK, EMILY BEECHAM
DIRECTED BY: MIKAEL HAFSTROM
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
At this point, science fiction movies portraying a world of war and artificial intelligence being used as military are not far-fetched, they’re just inevitable. It’s also been done time and time again. Movies such as District 9, Elysium, Edge of Tomorrow, and recently Upgrade continue to portray this blending of robots and our military and we see it again in Outside the Wire. Director Mikael Hafstrom (director of Escape Plan) has the look down of a violent battle in Eastern Europe, fighting between United States forces and Russian military. The mission involves young drone striker Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) sent to the war zone with Sargent Leo (Anthony Mackie) to thwart the possibility of a nuclear blast. The fight involves rugged conditions, attacks from all-comers, but it helps when it’s revealed that the Sargent might be more machine than he is man. Outside the Wire is a standard sci-fi mix with war, it has some cool action sequences, but not enhancing the genre outside what we already know.
Early on, a brief coda explains the state of the world, constant fighting, and a military fleet of robots called GUMPS now help fight the battle alongside humans. We meet Harp as he is sitting in his drone striker chair, while on the ground U.S. troops take on heavy fire from Russian forces. Harp is tasked with deciding to launch a blast, losing a few to save the many, but his choice lands him being reprimanded. His slap on the wrist involves going into the field and under the wing of Sargent Leo, fighting where death is more a possibility than ever. The mission is to deliver vaccines to those in need on one side, and stop the Russian insurgents, led by Victor Koval (Pilou Asbaek), from getting hold of nuclear weapons. Seems easy enough, but along the way, Harp begins to wonder what side his half-human-android leader is on. He’s hiding secrets, what their true motive is, and it’s not easy to trust a robot during a time of war.
There are positives that Outside the Wire has, specifically Anthony Mackie who is perfect as a heartless military robot and lead Damson Idris shows promise. Mackie turns on his acting portrayal of robotic skills and shows his muscle by taking out insurgents with a strike of his fist. The other positive is the settings, which also have an authenticity looking like war-torn destruction. It’s revealed specifically in a scene where Harp and Leo attempt to recover their vaccine packages at a ransacked drop-point. This involves destroyed housing all around, crumbled walls, a hellfire of bullets coming from insurgents and GUMPS, resulting in explosions and stress. The problem with Outside the Wire are the moments in-between this. The action works often and when the narrative becomes a road trip, where one man cannot trust the other, things slow down to a near halt. There’s posturing and it’s not clear who to trust, but it’s also similar to many other movies we have seen before.
The screenplay, written by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe succeed at making the fighting scenes intriguing and fail at making the human aspects worth caring for. By the time the third act rolls around I found it hard to care for what Harp was attempting to achieve, while the powers of Mackie’s character seem to never truly show the full capabilities he has. Prior to the third act there is a hostage situation and attempt to retrieve nuclear codes which goes wrong for Harp, where once again the action is intense, sometimes cluttered, and ultimately forgetful in the long line of movies with intense shootout scenes.
That’s not to say that Outside the Wire is all bad. It’s engaging and keeps it mostly entertaining. The problems are pacing, with stops and starts that make it hard to find a rhythm, and an ending that’s so pretentious it’s hard to not roll your eyes to the back of your head. It will ultimately fall in line with a long list of other sci-fi movies where our AI is implemented as part of our military and humans will need to come to terms with the consequences of what we have created. That lesson wasn’t learned in Terminator 2 and it’s not being learned Outside the Wire.
OUTSIDE THE WIRE PREMIERES ON NETFLIX THIS FRIDAY JANUARY 15TH
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady