Outside the Wire is a new scifi movie from Netflix, starring Anthony Mackie as “Captain Leo” and Damson Idris as “Harp.” All in all its a mostly decent action film with a scifi twist, it makes for a good brainless popcorn muncher, but that’s really about it.
We find our “hero” Harp, piloting a US drone, disobeying orders and executing an air strike, killing two Marines in order to save the rest of the squad. This of course doesn’t happen without consequences, and he’s sent off to report to Captain Leo.
Oh, before I get too far into this, I have to set this up for you. So we are in some sort of alternate future where the US is up to its neck in Ukraine’s (which Leo keeps calling “The Ukraine” and if you’ve been watching the news you know enough to drop the “the”…) ongoing war with Russia. In this alt future, both sides have developed AI robots called “gumps” (I don’t know if it was ever explained why) that assist troops on the front lines. “The wire” is a reference to anywhere in the terrible no-mans land outside the little DMZ that they’ve created for themselves smack dab in the center of Ukraine.
Turns out Leo is a super advanced prototype robot. Or something. He’s just kind of tossed out there at you and the explanation is pretty sketchy. Like he’s a super secret project that nobody is supposed to know about or something. Harp gets assigned to him to set up the overshadowing comparison, of the “human that acts like a robot” versus the “robot that acts like a human” scenario. I guess that’s one of the takeaways from this, is that little paradox.
Leo’s mission is to get some vaccines to civilians on the other side of the line, but that’s just a pretense. His real mission (and a mission that is all his own, nobody gives it to him) is to steal some nuclear launch codes for the local arms dealer, Vasili (Gabor Krausz), but instead turns on Vasili and keeps the launch codes for himself, so he can attack the US mainland.
You see, Leo has gone full HAL and can’t seem to process some conflicting instructions regarding who is actually in command, sending him off the deep end, ignoring everyone’s orders, and basically trying to kill everyone, or something.
There’s also the resistance, led by Sofiya (Emily Beecham) in a subplot that really doesn’t need to exist, in my opinion. But after she lets Harp go, the real fun begins. Harp returns to HQ, gets all equipped with his holy water and crucifix, aka incendiary rounds, and heads off to stop Leo from destroying the free world.
You can almost guess what happens next.
Look, I love a good scifi action film with gunfights and robots, and some attempt at a moral switcheroo where the robots are more human than the humans and vice versa… The HAL reference was a nice touch, but honestly the whole thing has low budget straight to video written all over it.
Which I mean, to be fair, that’s what it is, but we’ve come to expect a little better from Netflix originals at this point.
If you’re paying attention, you even get to hear Mackie utter the line “I can do this all day.” Which I’m gonna guess is a nod to his taking over the shield over at the MCU, but really doesn’t make any sense in this context.
Overall the performances here are also just “meh.” I think the whole “war movie” thing contributes to that, with the stilted genre-typical writing, and while nobody is particularly awful in their roles, nobody really stands out, either. Everyone’s just paying the bills I suppose.
I’m going to be nice and give Outside the Wire a 2.2 out of five. If you’re after a no-though-required couple hours of explosions, gunfights, and some not terrible robot effects, then sure, give it a shot. If you’ve come to expect better from Netflix, and/or you’re looking for something a little deeper, this isn’t for you. It wasn’t for me, that’s for sure.