Science-fiction continues to evolve, but yet it also continues to utilize the same subject matter. No matter the time frame or setting, it seems humankind keeps making the same mistakes and yet we continue to make and create new technology to improve things. But for all of these advancements, war, pestilence and greed persist. My review this week focuses on the new Netflix film “Outside the Wire,” and it is an interesting “buddy film” between a desensitized Air Force drone pilot and an experimental cybernetic being.
It opens during an intense firefight between U.S. troops and insurgents in a disputed European country. Russia wants to reclaim it, while a rogue terrorist wants to get his hands on nuclear codes for the missiles still sitting in silos within its borders. As the U.S. Marines fight for their lives and try to escape, a drone pilot who is sitting comfortably back in Nevada has to assess and observe the situation. Ultimately, he makes an error and ends up reassigned against his will. When the pilot gets to his new outpost, he meets Leo (Anthony Mackie), who is much more than he appears to be. Turns out he is a fourth-generation cybernetic organism that may or may not have his own agenda, but is trying to do the right thing.
Lt. Harp (Damson Idris) is apprehensive at first to follow Leo’s orders and questions him throughout the movie. Harp also struggles with seeing war up close. He was only familiar with a joystick and watching on a live video feed; he never saw the death or carnage he was responsible for. Only when faced with seeing the atrocities and aftermath on the ground and in the flesh does he start to question his own moral code. Leo, meanwhile, walks both sides of the fence delivering vaccines and medical aid to women and children who need it, but is a lethal adversary who kills without thought or question.
I really liked Anthony Mackie in this; when he is trying to act human, he has an almost deceptive smile. At times his behavior reminds me very much of the early “Terminator” films. The film features mechanical soldiers, referred here as “Gumps,” which are heavily armored automated robots that work in conjunction with human soldiers. They mimic and move with military tactics, but have the ability to make tactical decisions when needed.
The fight choreography throughout the movie is exceptional – there’s one scene where Mackie is sliding down an angled rooftop and simultaneously shooting, then a couple of moments later he is leaping over elevated I-beams yards apart. The stunt team definitely went overboard shooting this. It is also not lost on me that this is the second Netflix film starring a Marvel actor in an action-heavy role, after Chris Hemsworth starred in “Extraction” earlier this year. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple have over the last few months been getting into bidding wars for bigger and bigger films, and the sad reality is, viewers are becoming accustomed to staying home and streaming movies. If this continues, eventually theaters are going to go away. It’s already a ghost town in most cinemas, and a lack of new product is only exasperating the situation. A continuing stream of solid films online only hurts even more.
This film is rated R.