Outside the Wire (2021)

"Your commanding officer. Fourth-generation biotech, and I’m going to give you sixty seconds to deal with it.""Your commanding officer. Fourth-generation biotech, and I’m going to give you sixty seconds to deal with it."

“Your commanding officer. Fourth-generation biotech, and I’m going to give you sixty seconds to deal with it.”

Netflix has an ambitious release schedule for 2021. Roughly a film or two a week will be released and to be honest maybe less than half will be decent to Oscar contending. It’s been that way for years and no change appears to be in sight. Unfortunately, this is the case with Outside the Wire. Without Netflix blatantly saying this particular movie is being released this day and time, none of us would ever discover it when it’s meant to be discovered. A lot of good content fails to catch the viewers’ attention because of the severe lack of marketing that Netflix adds to a films budget.

If there is a single word to describe Netflix original films, that word is divisive. That word is mostly associated with their action films. We’ve seen it before with previous action films released by the streaming service. Films like Extraction, 6 Underground and Triple Frontier look promising but end up feeling empty inside. There was some semblance of hope in The Old Guard but the momentum that was gained Is now gone.

The year is 2036 (15 years away) and central Europe is suffering from a civil against insurgents. Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) is sitting comfortably (sort of) in a trailer thousands of miles away as he controls a drone. He makes the decision to kill two of his own Marines to save thirty-eight. Harp is sent to camp Nathaniel where he is assigned to Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie) who just happens to be an advanced bio-mechanical android super soldier. Harp and Leo’s mission is to prevent a terrorist from gaining control of nuclear missiles under the disguise of delivering vaccines to a refugee camp.

Outside the Wire’s biggest problem, the one that stands out like a sore thumb is the sense that it has already been done before. It’s completely derivative. Minus time travel this is basically a Terminator movie and not one of the good ones either. Add a pinch of Will Smith’s iRobot, a sillier Training Day and robotic soldiers called “Gumps” (wonder where they got that inspiration from) and the film that is laid out in front of us becomes predicable. The android will act like an android, devoid of any emotion and depth unless there is a flaw in its system that will give it a fraction of empathy, but no. Leo is programmed to carry out his mission and nothing else.

“Have you ever experienced a mass-casualty encounter, other than from behind your screen? Have you spent time in a conflict zone, Lieutenant Harp?”

A lot of the films time and pace is busy setting up the parameters of the backstory and mission Harp and Leo are about to embark on without establishing any real connection to the characters. The writing and development is stretched pretty thinly for any emotions to be shared between audience and main characters. The action is scarce and virtually nonexistent until the 50-minute mark when Leo’s superior fighting ability is put on display and it doesn’t disappoint. Why it took so long to showcase this visceral action sequence is beyond logic since the choreography is constructed beautifully. This is where the film actually gets interesting – the action saves it from complete obscurity.  

Outside the Wire struggles to get its footing with its main characters. Sending an untrained in combat soldier to the front lines of a warzone doesn’t make Harp a person to root for as an underdog. The hope is that he doesn’t do something stupid to get himself or his platoon killed. For two thirds of the movie, Harp is useless – he’s in the way, uncertain of himself and is shell shocked by what he’s witnessing and what he’s an accomplice to that is Leo’s true mission. For a non-living, breathing being Leo comes off more human than his counterpart in every feasible way. 

Harp is a strange character. He’s unusual that he shows zero remorse for killing two of his own and he comes off more robotic than the actual android he shares a mission with. There is an attempt by the screenwriters to make supporting characters feel as if they are semi important but in reality they don’t add any sort of substance to the overall story. With most roles (Michael Kelly) as Col. Eckhart is underutilized in his role, he always produces solid performances and it’s a shame that he doesn’t get the character in this that will showcase his talent.

A lot of time in Outside the Wire is spent setting up the “main” misdirect villain Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk). His screen time adds up to a total of less than five minutes out of the near two hour runtime giving the impression that his villain is unnecessary to the plot and therefore could have been left out completely.

Besides the questionable methods for choosing these character traits, Anthony and Damson have good on-screen chemistry together. Despite the weaker script by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale, Anthony and Damson are able to salvage some sort of dignity for their characters sake. With most war films some type of special message, deep meaning about the current state of the world is brought up in a way that makes the viewer question reality and the state of things from a perspective that isn’t their own, and that point is utterly irrelevant here. 

Tell me what you’re hiding. I’ll walk back to base, and I’ll tell them you went rogue. Did your motherboard freeze? Stop staring at me like that. Did your motherboard freeze? Say something!”

Outside the Wire doesn’t do too much to distance itself from other war movies. It’s pretty generic with lines that have been said before but in different ways. At least every single war film features the line “to make any kind of change, you must get your hands dirty”. War isn’t clean – it never has been and never will be. People do horrible things in war times that is unimaginable and a line like that is basically confirming that “water is wet”. 

Outside the Wire is nothing special. There is no real depth to its story even with a promising futuristic war setting and a biotech android. It’s an amalgamation of many different films that doesn’t do anything to elevate its status among the greats. Basically, it’s just another Netflix movie that will fade from memory in a short amount of time. Without Leo, Harp wouldn’t be at all interesting of a character. He’s more of a throwaway that barely skates by to save the day. If I were to rate Outside the Wire, I’d rate it a 1.5 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen Outside the Wire and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Outside the Wire is directed by Mikael Håfström is Rated R and has a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. Outside the Wire was released on January 15, 2021 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 55 minutes. Outside the Wire can be streamed on Netflix.

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