Cinema Review: Outside the Wire | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, March 8th, 2021  

Outside the Wire

Studio: Netflix
Directed by Mikael Håfström

Jan 25, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Outside the Wire is a movie about the evolution of artificial intelligence that's as dim as a bulb. It also confirms the struggles Netflix is having with their action and science fiction hybrids.

Netflix's first entry, Bright, was the worst movie of 2017, including The Emoji Movie, because it wasn't able to hold our attention for more than five minutes. Their next, Project Power, was even less successful, and now comes Outside the Wire, which is outsized and outlandish, and not in a good way.

What we have this time is a familiar futuristic premise: Europe is a war zone, and American soldiers have been sent to police the situation, along with new, fully robotic soldiers called "Grumps." A terrorist group is running across the land, taking over, shooting people and blowing up whatever their boss tells them to.

Meanwhile, Air Force Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) is a drone pilot stationed in Nevada, flying over the war zone. He disobeys a direct order and saves 38 marines, kills two, and is sent to training camp where he meets his new partner, Leo (Anthony Mackie), a next generation android who is tasked with recovering nuclear weapons and showing Harp how it's done.

It's your basic man-on-a-mission story, with all the obstacles and allies along the way you might expect, along with the sheen of your son's favorite video game. The combat scenes are like watching someone else play Call of Duty; the gun fights are shot with queasy shaky-cam. Even the set pieces are meant to look like "maps" in COD.

The wildly inconsistent production design makes it feel like you're watching two different movies. There are computer-enhanced explosions, as well as many, many, long, extensive shootouts in empty streets, but the scenes away from the action feel less dire. You almost get a buddy cop vibe from Harp and Leo, even though they hate each other, and the constant shift between death and humor is as jarring as the one between war-torn cities and magically untouched greenery.

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom from a script by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe, Outside the Wire waits 50 minutes to tell you anything about the mission, and even then we're not sure what's going on. There's a terrorist, a nuke, a bank, something about a resistance...It's never quite explained, despite title cards and voice overs trying to make sense of it all.

It's easy to harp on the production misfires because there's not much else to talk about with a story this bland. There are no character arcs to speak of. There's a robot-as-slave metaphor, similar to the one in The Terminator, but it's buried under a pile of bodies and buildings and tonal inconsistencies. Like many Netflix productions, Outside the Wire makes you wonder if machines are making their movies. How else could they be so robotic? 

Author rating: 2/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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