Outside the Wire is a futuristic, militarized version of 2001’s Training Day. A movie that looks at a rookie on the job who follows along his too-good-at-his-job leader while questioning some of his methods in getting the job done. This is a movie we’ve all seen before, but the thrilling action and a captivating lead performance keep this one relatively interesting.
Set in 2036, drone pilot Lieutenant Thomas Harpa (Damson Idris) is sent into a war zone after failing to follow orders during an air strike. He is paired with Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie) a top-secret, specialized android officer as they embark on a mission to find nuclear codes that are in the hands of Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk). But while on the mission, Thomas begins to question Leo’s violent tactics and the mission that they are on, while learning the cost of being on the frontline and getting actual blood on your hands.
Outside the Wire was written by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe, the latter of whom has never written a feature film before and is known more for writing video games. Though that might sound like it could be a recipe for disaster, it actually helps the film quite a bit. The action sequences are excellent. They are incredibly violent, quickly edited, and filled with explosives and a number of different weapons, all of which I assume came from the mind of Yescombe. Director Mikael Håfström, known mostly for his work in the horror genre, shows he has a good hand in directing action. The acton adds a much needed spark to the film, especially when the story doesn’t quite keep up.
The plot and the story of the film aren’t anything new or special. This movie is about understanding getting blood on your hands, with messages of how inhumane modern warfare can be. As a drone pilot, Thomas doesn’t understand the cost of human life. He sits in a trailer with a couple of other officers and has the power to cause mass destruction with one hand while eating gummy bears with the other. When he is thrown into the war zone and sees the violent tactics of Leo and the mess that it gets him in, he realizes that taking a life is more than just pulling a trigger. He also is working with an android who doesn’t see the emotional tole of is actions and only looks at the result. Though it brings up some interesting themes, it never fully comes together and ultimately brings the film down at the end.
Anthony Mackie has become one of those actors who is good in just about everything he does regardless of the movie’s quality. You can put him in an action movie, an Oscar-winner, or as Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and he will always light up the screen. Though what’s interesting about Mackie is that he isn’t quite a movie star and isn’t quite a character either, but rather doing a bit of both with every role. In Outside the Wire, Mackie shows off all of his movie-stardom, flashing moments of charisma and humor while also giving a performance with smoldering intensity and great physicality. He commands the screen and even the little things he does, like the robotic way he runs, are small details that really make the performance shine. Mackie commands the movie and his performance alone makes Outside the Wire worth a watch.
Though the action is exciting and Anthony Mackie gives a stellar performance, Outside the Wire works only on certain levels. The story needed to be fleshed out more and the plot needed to be more interesting in-between the exciting action sequences. Outside the Wire might disappear into the Netflix ether within the next month, but it’s an explosive beginning to 2021.
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