Netflix’s flurry into the action world has been far from stellar at this point. Mediocrity is what I’ve come to expect as a base level, with anything going above thrilling and worthwhile a bonus. Sadly again, Outside the Wire fails to be as compelling as the story it wishes to tell.
In the not so distant future, robots and soldiers have learnt to fight side by side. With a war breaking out in Eastern Europe and a potential nuclear threat imminent, the US government are forced to act.
Starring Damson Idris as Lt. Harp, A young drone pilot who’s controversial decision lands him in serious hot water with his superiors, and is forced to serve on the battlefield. This is where he gets partnered up with Leo (Anthony Mackie). As Harp soon realises, his partner is unlike anything he’s seen before. Leo is an extreme level Android, that takes on the characteristics of a human. Only he’s faster, smarter and stronger than any human Harp, or any other soldier for that matter, has ever encountered.
Lt. Harp’s morals and beliefs are put to the test, when he accompanies Leo ‘outside the wire’ into unknown territory. Harp will encounter more tough decisions as he’s forced into a war that he begins to realise, is less one sided than previously perceived.
It starts off as you’d expect. We’re fed a little information as to what we’re being thrown into, and a frantic gun fight ensues. It’s by no means groundbreaking but it gives us some idea of what we can expect from an early stage. Harp is forced to make a tough decision and from there we start to see the story unfold.
Not until the half hour mark however, does the action really start coming into play, and through some mind-numbing and rather pointless exposition, the fast paced sequences are darted throughout. Unfortunately they’re not much more than generic action fodder.
We get a Training Day (2001) style of relationship between our two leads. Both believe they’re doing the right thing but perhaps for a different cause. The ‘behind enemy lines’ schtick is also perhaps not the best way to propel your narrative when you’re presenting something rather unique and refreshing in a war setting.
Director Mikael Håfström (1408, Escape Plan) manages to find some bursts of energy, that help bring it all to life a little bit, but falls into a rather formulaic, substandard action thriller by its final third. Complete with unsurprising character behaviours and a by the numbers final showdown.
I’ve always admired the ‘quality over quantity’, lateral way of thinking. Something Netflix perhaps hasn’t truly got the hang of yet. They’re pumping out these one time thrill adventures with a lack of real value or purpose, squandering potentially great flicks, like Outside the Wire here, for quick results.
Frustratingly we’re given strong lead performances from both Damson Idris and Anthony Mackie and there’s a blueprint for a strong idea here, but it’s brushed off by a far inferior level of simple storytelling.