Set 25 years in the future, war is still the law of the land despite major advancements in robotic technology, and the conflicts are just as heated as ever. U.S. Marine drone pilot Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) defies a direct order by deploying a Hellfire missile in a drone strike during a battle. His action kills two Marines but saves 38 others. Instead of getting court-martialed, Harp is sent to work with Capt. Leo (Anthony Mackie), who to Harp’s surprise is secretly an advanced android super-soldier pretending to be an officer to complete his true mission.
Harp finds himself in the middle of an international conflict that puts lives and the future of several nations at risk. The problem is, Harp is trapped between three different factions and doesn’t know if he can trust any of them.
War never changes, and “Outside The Wire” builds a world that is both contemporary and futuristic by blending modern soldiers with robots that would give Skynet a run for its money. The effects are pretty solid for a Netflix film that has to work harder than its theatrical counterparts to hide its budget.
The strongest performance is from lead actor Anthony Mackie. In a film that draws parallels to last year’s “Extraction,” starring fellow Marvel alum Chris Hemsworth, Mackie is just as strong a lead but is no superhero here. As Capt. Leo, Mackie is a cold-blooded cyborg programmed to remove humanity from his decision, making him the perfect soldier. The character blurs the lines between heel and babyface but provides all the best brutality the film has to offer, thanks to some brilliant stunt choreography. But the film’s ambition hurt the final product.
One of the most notable trends of Netflix movies in the last few years as a cost saving measure, Netflix will place an actor with limited acting experience with a big time star in an effort to get the most bang for their bucks. So far, this experiment has not helped the quality of their films because putting a novelist on the same actor as a well trained actor kills the chemistry of a film.
Damson Idris has a few years experience acting in major films and the writing doesn’t do him any favors. His character of Thomas was chosen as a scapegoat due to his history of questioning authority but the film goes much further than that. Thomas on multiple occasions bucks the orders of his superiors to the point where he would be court martialed on realistic circumstances. As the film progresses, his character shows a little importance to the plot as Mackie does all the heavy lifting in terms of the action while he stands in awe.
If the writing from Rob Yescombe & Rowan Athale had been more, Idris’s character could have been removed from the film creating a stronger narrative focused on Mackie. Supporting characters such as Sofiya played by Emily Beecham never live up to their potential as their screen time leaves more to be desired.
With such a limited cast, the film gives viewers some enjoyment but leaves them pondering what could have been. “Outside The Wire” falls into the trap of many Netflix originals: good enough to warrant a first viewing, but not strong enough to watch again.