“Outside the Wire" stars Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, and Pilou Asbæk. Released on Netflix on January 15, 2021, the film is about an android officer who teams up with a drone pilot to stop a global catastrophe.
The film is directed by Mikael Håfström, who also directed films such as “Vendetta”, “Evil”, “1408”, “The Rite”, and “Escape Plan”. Sometimes the best way to save the world is with the help of a half-human, half-cyborg being. No, I’m not talking about Cyborg from the DC universe. I’m talking about the Falcon himself, Anthony Mackie. Before we see Mackie team up with the Winter Soldier in the upcoming Marvel series for Disney+, the actor is taking on a different kind of action film for Netflix, which is hoping to start off 2021 on the right foot. How, you may ask? By becoming the Winter Soldier himself, of course, without the Hydra brainwashing stuff. This latest action film sees Netflix continuing their hot streak of releasing plenty of new content for us to watch every week since the pandemic hit us hard back in March, which is good because I need a lot of reviews to write this year in case the upcoming theatrical films get delayed again. The only thing I remember from the film’s director is that he’s responsible for reuniting Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the 2013 action film, “Escape Plan”, which spawned a trilogy in case you forgot already. Given the fact that “Escape Plan” was pretty enjoyable in my eyes, I should assume that this film will likely get that same treatment as well. With that in mind, let’s see if it’s functional enough to prove my point.
The story follows Lt. Thomas Harp (Idris), a disgraced drone pilot who is sent into a U.S. base in Ukraine as punishment for disobeying an order. There, he’s assigned to work for Captain Leo (Mackie), a military officer who is actually a top-secret android super-soldier. They team up in a race against time to locate a pro-Russian terrorist named Victor Koval (Asbæk) and prevent him from using the nuclear missile silos to wipe out humanity. Netflix has a pretty good track record when it comes to delivering some serviceable action films. Some of them, like “Extraction” and “The Old Guard”, were able to blew my expectations with their heart-pounding action sequences and invigorating stories. Others were basically generic due to the executions of their concepts. “Outside the Wire” just happened to fall into the latter category. If you go into this film expecting nothing but a bunch of gunfights, CGI robots, war, CGI robots, bloody violence, and…you guessed it, CGI robots, I believe that you’ll be mostly impressed with the final result. However, if you’re hoping for it to have an Oscar-worthy story about the casualties of war from a drone pilot’s perspective and the dangers of artificial intelligence, you might as well pack your bags and head on home to be a family man because this film didn’t have that type of programming in its system. To be fair, the film did represent those types of topics, along with some well-handled moments like the action scenes, the gritty setting, and its third act, but they were easily overwritten by its formulaic screenplay and its so-so characters. If you’ve seen the other action films that has two different people saving the world from a bad guy, then you already have seen “Outside the Wire”. I don’t mind a film following the same formula as the ones from before as long as the execution is good, which is one of my personal rules in terms of reviewing movies. Unfortunately, the execution here was anything but good. It’s a conventional sci-fi action film that lacked any strong interest in its themes as well as the main characters themselves. It also didn’t help that the plot took itself a bit too seriously at times, especially for some viewers who want the film to be both fun and serious. As for the cast themselves, I thought they were all right. They’re not complete show-stoppers or anything like that, but they did the best they could in spite of its flawed script. Anthony Mackie continues to impress me with his performance and his stunt work as Leo, resulting in him joining the list of actors finding success outside of their Marvel roles alongside Chris Hemsworth. Along with providing some humorous moments, Mackie knows how to make his character as badass as one might expect from him. Damson Idris, who is known for appearing in films like “Megan Leavey” and “Farming” as well as the television series “Snowfall”, delivered a performance that wasn’t able to come close to matching Mackie’s. Even though I had a soft spot for Idris’s character’s redemption arc, I felt that his acting was a bit dull during a couple of scenes. The action sequences were also pretty enjoyable at times, along with some passable visual effects. While they’re not as energetic as the ones from “Extraction” due to some choppy editing and Håfström’s direction, I did happen to find some amusement seeing Mackie beat the crud out of the bad guys and destroy some bad robots. Gotta take what I can get, I guess.
Overall, despite some entertaining moments, “Outside the Wire” has several bugs in its system that makes it incompatible for modern warfare. Half of the stuff that was in the film were fine enough to keep me engaged, such as Mackie’s performance and the action scenes, but the rest of them were just as rusty as a pile of junk. Due to its cliched screenplay, average characters, and its inability to provide strong depth in its themes, the film wasn’t able to make it out of the war zone alive. It’s watchable for people who enjoyed Mackie in his Marvel Cinematic Universe films as well as people who just want to watch an ordinary action film. For those who want an award-worthy action war film, not so much.