Outside the Wire
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
Streaming on Netflix
Outside the Wire is like one of those direct-to-video movies you would find on the shelves at Blockbuster or Rogers or wherever you liked to rent movies from back when we used to do that sort of thing. Starring a recognizable face, someone whose IMDB includes Oscar winners and giant franchise blockbusters. Usually with a pull quote reading “…action…” from something that looked suspiciously like a blog. Occasionally those movies were all kinds of ridiculous, over-the-top fun, like The Boondock Saints. But usually they were tedious and repetitive, any fun outweighed by attempts at social commentary and weighty philosophy. Unfortunately, Outside the Wire is the latter no matter how much fun it thinks it is.
Outside the Wire is a sci-fi-war movie, set in 2036. Far enough in the future to feature robot soldiers and a ridiculously handsome android, pointy nosed personal carriers and hellfire rockets that can take out entire city blocks. Not so far ahead that the production can get away with using contemporary SUVs and cars. There’s a civil war in somewhere in Eastern Europe and there’s a Big Bad that is trying to get his hands on some codes so he can launch some nukes and “end the world as we know it”.
Damson Idris plays Lt. Thomas Harp, a drone pilot with an authority problem who disobeys a direct order. His punishment is being sent to the front line of the civil war, where he is under the command of Leo, the ridiculously handsome android captain played by Anthony Mackie. Leo is tracking the Big Bad and he brings Harp along and except for the tons and tons and tons and tons of exposition, it feels like maybe this will be a sci-fi-war-buddy-comedy movie with tons and tons and tons and tons of cussing. But, no, that is just one of the many, many ideas that gets tossed aside.
But before we get into the rest of the bad, let’s dig into what’s good. When it ventures outside, it looks great. The cast is good. Some of the effects are well done. The action scenes are pretty good, full of gun fu and stuff blowing up real good. And it has some good ideas and raises some interesting questions.
Unfortunately, it drops those all those ideas and questions in favour of twists and turns until it ends up the sci-fi-war movie equivalent of an over-cooked pretzel. Anyone expecting an Asimovian exploration of the implications of a sentient, cussing, ridiculously handsome android mentoring a humiliated drone pilot who has never seen action outside of a video screen, well, sorry. Anyone expecting to see a drone pilot learn the true cost of war and get in touch with his humanity with the help of a sentient, cussing, ridiculously handsome android, well, sorry. I mean, both of those movies, and many others, are introduced in Outside the Wire, it’s just that they get lost when the film flips from one idea to another to another and twists and turns and flips again.
The movie twists itself so much it ends up contradicting itself. And after two hours of watching a movie turn itself from a potentially fun, interesting sci-fi-war movie into an overcooked pretzel, I just couldn’t care anymore. This is the kind of movie that during its climax has giant red numbers counting down and a booming voice counting down the numbers yet the characters blabber on and on and on and we start noticing that the booming voice and the giant red numbers have only gone down by three but there has been at least 30 seconds of blabbering.
I could go on and on and on listing all Outside the Wire’s sins. But I won’t. Mostly because Outside the Wire commits the gravest sin that can be committed by any sci-fi-war movie, it’s not fun. Not at all.
There must be better ways to spend a couple of hours during this slow-motion apocalypse we’re all living through.