- Nate Adams
Review: Lame 'Outside The Wire' cooks up old tricks
Courtesy of Netflix
Another day, another film about Terminator like machines trying to take over the world. At least that’s the case in Netflix’s sci-fi thriller “Outside the Wire,” except these machines aren’t T-100’s: they’re either cyborgs or what the United States government calls “Gumps.” The opening sequence sets the stage, one where Robot soldiers battle alongside human counterparts (maybe good, maybe bad - who knows!) When two squad members are stuck behind enemy lines, their commanding officer plans a rescue attempt, meanwhile hot-shot lieutenant – and drone pilot – Harp (Damson Idris) is watching via satellite and breaks command to issue a drone strike, killing two and saving 38.
Following this, he’s spared conviction and sent into the field to get a taste of combat. Like Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow,” Harp is about to see the inner workings of the US Military. Enter Anthony Mackie as a cyborg/super soldier not far removed from his Marvel brethren who takes Harp under his wing following the court martial.
Swedish filmmaker Mikael Håfström is behind the camera, and considering his best film was the atmospheric horror thriller “1408,” a slightly bigger budget with a heightened sense of awareness helps “Outside the Wire” find some mojo, but there’s moments where it seems the director is out of his element. Perhaps that’s the corporate lords at Netflix trying to pump as much action into the frame so folks don’t change the channel.
In any case, “Outside the Wire” turns into an unexpected mentorship between Leo (Mackie) and Harp and their earlier scenes (the obligatory first meeting and questioning of authority) are where the film shines, and because Håfström works best in intimate settings that should be no surprise. It’s when they get into combat and Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe’s script tries to explain Leo’s origins that things spiral downward.
Leo has chosen Harp to help track a Russian oligarch named Viktor Koval (Pilou Asbæk) – described as “the terror of the Balkans” – who’s plotting to overthrow nuclear silos and launch them towards the United States, creating worldwide pandemonium. In between highway chases, hand to hand beatdowns, and hunting terrorists in Hungarian locations, Leo and Harp try to understand each other, but what’s a sci-fi action thriller without a few narrative wrenches thrown in, and the endgame is both laughable and expected.
With Netflix’s main goal of securing as many eyeballs as possible (and their global footprint is unmatched), “Outside the Wire” needs to reach the bare minimum for maximum success. Which means post-production VFX aren’t polished, and the editing is inherently chaotic. But since the film was always headed to streaming, that’s no surprise and “Outside the Wire” will boost Netflix’s robust action catalog (hell, it will probably hit #1 in their top 10 ranking opening weekend). However, it won’t sustain longevity the way “Old Guard” did earlier this year and will be forgotten the moment those credits roll.
OUTSIDE THE WIRE debuts on Netflix Friday, January 15th