In war films, past and recent, the ideology and political spirit with which a story is written and directed is very evident. Don’t get me wrong, cinema is always political and always conveys an idea, because even being neutral about a story means making a political choice.
With war, as we were saying, it’s even easier to see the other side of the coin. This consideration is moved by the fact that in this type of work, there is a conflict and there are factions that very often represent rival nations and military groups that are either terrorists or revolutionaries. In “Outside The Wire” there’s a little bit of everything, there’s the U.S. versus Eastern Europe, there’s the terrorists and there’s the resistance there.
The subject of the film tells of a near future, 2036, where soldiers and machines fight side by side. The conflict instead sees pro-Russian rebels and the local resistance lined up. The first of this pair want to try to organize an attack, perhaps, no one knows. America of course must try to bring peace, so they say. Throughout this series of events, our protagonist, a skilled drone pilot, disobeys an order and begins a mission on the battlefield with one of his superiors. Can he be trusted?
He is thus sent on a mission in a high-risk military zone, where for the first time he will encounter real war, suffered from below the front line, having to deal with all that this entails. The lieutenant will collaborate with Captain Leo, in fact Mackie, which turns out to be a top-secret droid created with human features through a sophisticated biotechnology; there are only two, including the protagonist, who know the truth, and the robot must respond to their orders while still having a certain amount of personal will.
The conflict takes place in Eastern Europe, between Russia and Ukraine, where the United States of America is “forced” to intervene by sending its troops on a peace mission. The purpose is to stop the plans of Victor Kavol, called “warlord” and leader of Ukrainian terrorists, intent on stealing the access codes to a nuclear technology hidden during the Cold War.
The two soldiers are on a mission to get out of the security perimeter and deliver vaccines to a hard-hit area, but all is not as it seems and the mission gets complicated when they find themselves having to track down the notorious terrorist as well as save the world – and especially the United States.
Mikael Håfström‘s work makes Hungarian places such as Budapest and Visonta, its center of the narrative. These places are so dear to U.S. cinema because during the Cold War, U.S. film propaganda made Eastern Europe an enemy, a dangerous target. Although decades have passed and Mexico has now taken the place of Russia, those places still call up that smell in the imagination.
Mind you, the director is Swedish but in the screenwriting team there is an American. This does not mean anything, but it is clear that if we were to choose the United States as the protagonist faction, the enemies were commonly two: Mexico or Eastern Europe.
In “Outside The Wire”, that’s exactly what it is. The first hour of the film also runs the risk of diverting the viewer’s attention because it makes the conflict a clash of good guys and bad guys. Guess who the good guys are? That’s right, them. Around the war, we will also see the seriousness of the Marines and the U.S. Army who cares about every single victim, so it seems. Our protagonist, in fact, disobeys an order saving 38 soldiers but killing two of them. For his superiors it is unacceptable, he had to follow orders and not risk collateral damage.
Collateral damage will be the main theme of the film. The collateral damage they refer to is obviously that which is calculated during a “peace” mission, that is, resolving a conflict in exchange for the lives of many innocents. How important are those victims and how dear is the price of the common good? These are the questions “Outside The Wire” asks after the first half of the film.
Questioning one’s own point of view is crucial in these works, yet the moral and the ending you can imagine. Taking sides is all well and good, however what also matters a lot is the flavor with which you leave the viewing experience. “Outside The Wire”, somehow tries to curb this problem by making the choice of the protagonist a sentimental issue.
Let me explain. Despite knowing that what his country has done is wrong, he protects his faction until the end because that is where his loved ones live, his girlfriend. This interpretation of mine is very generous, despite the fact that there is every reason to affirm it.
As for the staging “Outside The Wire” proceeds without infamy and without praise, making the armed clash a fact and not a pretext for viewing action scenes for their own sake. If in fact “Outside The Wire” is often ambiguous, it is not at all the relationship mentor – pupil that mixes a bit ‘of ideas from other films trying to find an original combination.
Spoiler: unfortunately, it isn’t. From my tone of writing, you might think I didn’t love this movie at all, and in fact I did. Still, there are some interesting ideas but even these are not explored in depth. The co-star, played beautifully by Anthony Mackie, is the android/captain who leads the mission and who turns out to be a revolutionary.
He is certainly the best character in the film for two reasons. He is not only a rebel of his own state but also of his own creator and he has a very peculiar way of functioning, full of rules that can be broken under certain conditions.
That said, “Outside The Wire” has great pacing, flows beautifully and even moves some important thoughts along, however when it needs to find the gritty ending it sidesteps it, trying to throw in a bone. Truly ruthless war movies are others, but that doesn’t make “Outside The Wire” a bad movie, just more common than many others.