In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack. Outside the Wire is a movie that has come in “under the radar”, has elevated a bit above it, but not quite enough for you to be remembering it for too long after you have viewed it.
No stranger to action, Anthony Mackie’s new movie Outside the Wire debuted worldwide on Netflix on January 15th. This new action flick, is directed by Mikael Håfström (“Escape Plan”). Set in the future of 2036, the US has had to send troops to Ukraine to bring peace to a civil war which has ignited there. It starts with a drone pilot, Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris) facing a moral dilemma about whether to shoot missiles against a suspected enemy, which lands him in hot water when he decides to disobey a direct order from his superiors. As punishment he is sent directly on the battlefield to help out Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), who reveals himself to be an advanced (frequently profanity spouting) super soldier android. Leo asks Harp to help him bring down a corrupt leader, Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk) who Leo fears has access to nuclear codes and silos that could obliterate mankind and all known civilisation. But not all is as it seems.
The film is very fast paced, and features some well shot action sequences with a lot of real locations used adding to its authentic look. Most action appears to have been shot with real stunts and places. Although the storyline is set in Ukraine, the majority of scenes were actually filmed in Hungary with a large chunk of the movie utilising Budapest as the centre. Some well shot scenes in the city, as well as some great industrial sites in areas such as Kelenfold and Matra Power Plants. Cinematographer Michael Bonvillain (Cloverfield, Zombieland, Westworld) and Editor Rickard Krantz (Quick) both do a good job of ensuring you don’t lose track of what is going on, through a combination of smooth shots and well-paced edits. For anyone who has suffered the pain of watching a Transformers movie, you will know unclear camera work and over the top editing is a very easy trap to fall in to when it comes to high octane action involving mechanoids! The movie has a gritty action look to it, it reminded me of Bruckheimer movies that you used to see back in the 90’s. Production organisation by Pioneer Stillking Films is as slick as you would see in most Hollywood based projects, and the movie would not look out of place on a cinema screen. Indeed, if it wasn’t for most of the world being locked down, this would probably be an enjoyable Friday evening for a big screen movie-night.
As the plot progresses, characters develop, so it is not just your standard “destroy corrupt leader, disarm nukes and save the world” kind of flick, which it could have been. Mackie does a good job of playing against type here, and hopefully he may get some more roles of this nature in the future, as at present I think most people only associate him with the Falcon character from the Marvel universe, which is a little one dimensional and safe. Idris wasn’t quite as impressive, or memorable, but he does well at becoming increasingly kick ass as the movie evolves.
The special effects stood out for me in this movie where the GUMPS, smart android intelligent machines that the future military uses in battle. The look of the mechanoids is a mix between ED 209 from “Robocop”, and the extra-terrestrial hardware seen in “District 9”, the CGI used to display them is pretty seamless and impressive. They make for formidable opponents during some intense action scenes, particularly in a hostage situation in the later stages of the movie, filmed in the middle of Budapest. If I’m being honest, I think the GUMPS were a bit under used in this movie, and would have been interested to see them have a larger part. Automatic VFX did a pretty good job here of creating the effects and I would say they are just as good as what you would see from the bigger players in this field of work such as Industrial Light and Magic, or Weta.
Music in the movie is by composer Lorne Balffe (Bad Boys for Life, The Lego Batman Movie) is admittedly quite generic, nothing about the score is particularly memorable and I doubt you will be humming any of the theme songs any time soon, but it serves its purpose well in terms of underscoring the action.
Overall, I liked the take on androids that this film had. In most movies featuring cybernetic characters, the android is cold, emotionless and robotic. However, in this movie, Mackie’s character feels pain, cusses like a trooper and displays more personality than most androids you see in this sub-genre. Without going in to spoilers, I think it was interesting to see a different take on the Super Soldier than what we have seen in the other very well-known franchises that Mackie stars in. I also did like the way Mackie’s character was often referred to as “Cap”, and how different his character was than the “Cap” we all associate him with. Every time someone spoke to him using this term, he cursed and I did find it quite amusing!
It also throws up some interesting debates about what is the cost of war, is the sacrifice of some worth it for the majority, and who is the real enemy, the weapons that humanity yields, or humanity itself that creates said weapons in the first place?
When we get to the finale of the movie, there is a bit of a Terminator moment where the effects slightly go downhill and the CGI gets a little ropey, which could have maybe used a little extra work in post-production. I also felt the ending was a little abrupt, and was waiting patiently for a final twist or post credits scene, but none came! I felt this was a shame, as some of the concepts explored could easily led to a sequel.
Overall, I would say this is a slightly above average action film, mainly due to the way the story progressed and developed in the last 40 minutes or so, however, there were some concepts (the GUMPS) that were prime for extra development and I felt were unfortunately underutilised.
I would give this movie a straight 3 out of 5, worth a watch for some explosive popcorn type entertainment, but not quite enough to bring me back for a repeat viewing or to warrant an iconic status.