Netflix UK film review: Outside the Wire
Ivan Radford | On 21, Jan 2021
Director: Mikael Håfström
Cast: Damson Idris, Anthony Mackie, Michael Kelly, Emily Beecham
Watch Outside the Wire online in the UK: Netflix UK
“I’m aware we kill people.” “If you were aware of that, you wouldn’t be here.” That’s Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie) and drone pilot Harp (Damson Idris) in Outside the Wire, Netflix’s sci-fi thriller that isn’t afraid to call it like it sees it.
The film follows Harp, who makes a difficult – and controversial – call in the middle of an operation and ends up in war-torn Europe, where Leo is leading a platoon that includes “Gumps”, military bots that protect the human troopers on the ground. Leo, we swiftly discover, is part-machine himself, and is on the hunt for a Bad Man named Victor who is, in turn, on the hunt for some nuclear codes. When Leo expresses admiration for Hart’s ability to think outside the box, and tells his reluctant sidekick that his programming gives him “the ability to break the rules”, the stage is set for a distrusting, suspenseful double-act that recalls Training Day with a dash of Ex Machina.
Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale’s screenplay, though, leaves its intriguing ideas and moral debate about the merits and costs of war buried under territory that’s been well trodden by many similar movies before it. Damson Idris brings heart and inner conflict to an overly familiar role, while Anthony Mackie makes something engaging out of his thinly conventional character, but beyond their shifting dynamic, the script doesn’t give them the opportunity to take us anywhere surprising or interesting. The appearance of Emily Beecham as a resistance member and Michael Kelly as a chilling US officer also brings some welcome charisma to the table, but they, too, are left behind in the film’s blur of predictable plotting.
Director Mikael Håfström keeps the pace up, and does eventually get the chance to let loose with Mackie’s super-soldier in full flight. But Håfström doesn’t quite reach the visual innovation of something like Upgrade or the energy of his own 1408, which leaves Outside the Wire a little too content to stay inside the lines.
Outside the Wire is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.