Netflix’ military-sci-fi-action-thriller mashes Bourne with the Terminator, a dash of District 13 and I, Robot‘s moral maze. The battle of wits between naive Damson Idris’ drone pilot versus Antony Mackie’s charismatic super-cyborg gets pushed aside by the toys, the action and the explosions.
Idris’ Lt. Harp kills two marines but saves thirty-eight with a drone strike in a Ukrainian war zone; it’s 2049 and the US is still ‘peace-keeping’ while Russian-backed terrorists and resistance forces fight a civil war. Disgraced and sent to the DMZ, Harp is assigned to Mackie’s Capt. Leo who goes full John Wick/Captain America/Terminator in some fancy action sequences ‘outside the wire.’
It’s a tenuous title; perhaps I, Battlebot would have been more descriptive.
Idris and Mackie square off from the start as Capt. Leo’s motives are opaque at best. Fully three quarters of this crash-bang, high-tech, CGI-fest consists of them sparring whilst getting shot at by assorted bad guys and Russian battle-droids. The rest of the US military neither likes or trusts either of them, so like a latter-day Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, or Bad Boys, they go out to complete ‘the mission’ and save the world from nuclear Armageddon. Except in this non-buddy movie, neither of the partners likes or trusts the other either.
The script by Rowan Athale, Rob Yescombe contains some strong characterisaton, Mikael Håfström’s direction is suspenseful and assured, Lorne Balfe’s soundtrack is the perfect dramatic compliment. But it’s the two central performances of Idris and Mackie that keep this over-blown, testosterone-fuelled actioner on the road.
More successful than Netflix’ other sci-fantasy action outings Extraction or Old Guard, it barrels along sufficiently to distract you from realising how daft and derivative it is, not helped by the cardboard cut-outs of every other character. RC
Outside the Wire (2021)
Director: Mikael Håfström
Writer: Rowan Athale, Rob Yescombe
Runtime: 1hr 55m
Genre: action, sci-fi, thriller
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Enzo Cilenti