PG Score: 6/10
Outside the Wire is available on Netflix
Outside the Wire brandishes satisfying battles, but a convoluted plotline and forgettable characters detract from the overall experience.
The storyline follows disobedient drone pilot, Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris) as he is sent into a war zone to accompany android super-soldier, Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), on a dangerous mission to prevent a nuclear attack.
Swedish Director Mikael Håfström (1408 and Escape Plan) showcases his flair for high-octane set pieces in Outside the Wire. The hard-hitting sci-fi rumbles include a mixture of thunderous explosions, punchy shootouts, and grueling hand-to-hand romps. These spectacles (which involve people and robots known as Gumps) do not disappoint and highlight the filmmaker’s vicious approach to action sequences.
Mackie’s Leo is a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield and Håfström captures his robotic rampage in all its fierce glory. The tight choreography particularly stands out during a confrontation with the main villain, Victor Koval (Pilou Asbӕk), and features a gratifying blend of close-quarters conflict and gunplay. Unfortunately, Koval is extremely underutilized and that blunder is only compounded considering he is portrayed by an actor adept at playing the bad guy (look no further than his work on Game of Thrones as Euron Greyjoy and Overlord as Wafner). Still, he makes the most of his limited screen time and his nefarious presence is a significant contribution to the film’s best scene.
The same accolades cannot be given to Idris, who gives an uninspiring performance as the protagonist. The actor is best known for his highly acclaimed depiction of Franklin Saint on the hit TV series, Snowfall. The smooth, yet commanding charisma that is so evident on the FX show is replaced with flat line delivery and a muted screen presence as Harp in Outside the Wire. Granted, the two characters differ but not markedly so, and certainly not enough to justify such a steep decline acting-wise. In his defense, Harp is not all that intriguing of a hero to begin so there is only so much for the leading man to work with.
Anthony Mackie injects some welcomed vigor to the cast and pushes past the point of mediocrity. Despite his artificial structure, Leo is sentient to a degree which allows Mackie to reel off heated one-liners and fluctuate energy levels with relative freedom. While he may be typecast, the blueprint works in this case, and his standard swagger is in full effect. The fact that Idris’ performance as a human soldier is more mechanical than that of the actual cyborg is quite ironic.
The supporting cast is passable at best and with the likes of Michael Kelly (Everest) and Emily Beecham (Into the Badlands), this is discouraging. The former plays Colonel Eckhart, the man running the operation behind the scenes, and both the character and actor are lacking. Eckhart is very one-dimensional, and Kelly does little to bring any depth to the dull commander. Beecham is a little more memorable as Sofiya, a refugee camp leader who assists Leo and Harp. Even though the actress provides a marginally higher effort level, it is still another case of both a subpar character and portrayal.
Interesting Premise, Mediocre Execution
Håfström poses interesting questions surrounding morality and humanity, but the execution leaves much to be desired. In a sense, it is admirable that he opted to add a few layers of complexity to the futuristic combat, but these issues are shrouded behind a curtain of confusion and lack of rationale. While the partially-realized concepts are still remotely compelling, it is hard to shake the feeling that they should have been replaced by a more straightforward trajectory.
Considering the impact the frenetic firefights produce, the film would have been better off without the half-baked philosophies in the first place. Director Mikael Håfström’s latest project is light on logic and hindered by an unnecessarily intricate plot and mundane characters. Thankfully, the enjoyable action is enough reason to step Outside the Wire.