A By-The-Numbers Action Flick
While the cinemas remain shut, Netflix’s latest bombastic action thriller feels like a typical B-movie you’d pick up from a rental store. The formulaic script is mixed with some big budget action and a heavy-handed message about the horrors of war. Despite its flaws though, if you can go into this one with low expectations you may just have a good time.
The story is pretty simple in truth and boils down to the juxtaposing ideas of two soldiers. On the one hand you have Lieutenant Thomas Harp. Sitting comfy back home, Harp works as a drone operator overseeing the battlefield and striking enemies down when called upon.
When he defies a direct order and needlessly sacrifices civilian lives, Harp is thrown onto the front lines for some much-needed perspective.
Taking this soldier under his robotic wing is Leo, an android who just so happens to be his commanding officer. It’s an intriguing and ironic pairing, one that evolves nicely across the film’s run-time, toying with that thin line between compassion and duty.
Their target here though happens to be a Russian terrorist by the name of Victor Koval. He intends to launch nukes and bring about the end of the world – unless Leo and Harp can stop him in time.
Outside the Wire hits all the usual beats you’d expect from a film like this. There’s elements of a buddy-cop movie thrown in, alongside a lot of action scenes that reinforce the film’s message about warfare.
These shiny action sequences are essentially window dressing for what’s otherwise a pretty by-the-numbers script chock full of exposition and unnatural dialogue exchanges designed to propel our characters forward. There’s a couple of really cheesy one-liners later on too but given the writer here also penned several big-budget video games, it’s hardly surprising that the story follows such a simplistic and predictable pattern.
The over-played idea of Russians being the bad guys (including a cheeky line toward Russian hackers too) only reinforces how cliched this all feels. It also doesn’t help that despite this feeling like a cautionary tale about new weapons and the horror of warfare, the final act devolves into a celebratory display of what these machines can do in the “right hands.”
Those same “right hands” that previous bombed civilians only an hour earlier in the movie. It feels clumsy and at times tonally deaf.
Thankfully the acting and chemistry between Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris is enough to elevate this one. Their scenes together are great and you really get a feel of this being their movie, with everything else here carried on their shoulders.
Outside the Wire is one of those movies that’s absolutely fine and enjoyable to watch in the moment, but instantly forgettable the minute you switch it off. There’s absolutely nothing here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.
If you’re in the mood for a generic action flick though, you’re sure to have a good time with this one.