‘Outside the Wire’ Review: Netflix’s Latest Mediocre Sci-Fi Flick

Allison DeGrushe
Allison DeGrushe
March 7, 2021

Netflix’s first original film of the year is the sci-fi thriller Outside the Wire. Before any comments, let’s set the scene:

The year is 2036, and a destructive civil war has broken out in the middle of Eastern Europe. Not too much is revealed, only that US forces were deployed to Russia to act as peacekeepers. Oh, there are also “Gumps,” which essentially are robotic soldiers. During the fast-paced opening act, drone pilot Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris) disobeys a direct order, killing two teenage Marines.

Harp faces the consequences of his actions, traveling to Camp Nathaniel (a deadly warzone) to experience war first-hand. There, he is assigned to work with android combat soldier Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie). As the two embark on a mission to take down terrorist Vikor Koval (Pilou Asbæk), things arise that shift the film and eventually pit Harp and Leo against each other.

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Overall, Outside the Wire is, unfortunately, a forgettable film. Directed with a sense of chaos by Mikael Håfström, and from a script by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe, the film is rough. I found it to be unnecessarily long and quite messy at times. There were tons of scenes depicting war that involved explosions of gunfire, but that can’t be the only thing keeping you engaged — there needs to be depth and substance, which was nonexistent in this film.

Though the film always exhibits high energy and quick movement, some moments are slow to rise. Viewers have to wait almost an hour until they finally see what Leo is capable of, which is a total beat-down on opponents. Also, similar to Netflix’s The King, this movie takes forever to introduce the audience to the antagonist; in this case, that is Viktor Koval. With approximately forty minutes left to spare of the movie, we finally see him in the flesh. How ridiculous is that? We’ve heard about him the entire movie, yet we only just meet him at the end. My question is, why build him up as this big and bad guy when he barely has any screen time? I guess he wasn’t such an integral part after all.

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This movie had tons of potential — a fascinating premise surrounded by a great group of actors. However, it turned out overly violent and full of clichés. There were several parts throughout the movie where I felt queasy and had to look away. I mean, it is a war movie, and severe violence is anticipated in that setting, so I can’t complain too much. I chose to watch the movie, and the only thing I can say now is that future viewers should be cautious if they are sensitive to blood and brutality.

There were also a lot of problems with the characters. In the beginning, Leo is almost human, empathetic towards others, and holds that humanistic warmth. Then, suddenly there is a switch in him that isn’t completely addressed — he doesn’t obey human orders anymore, and he immediately shifts into this cold-blooded, ruthless murderer. It was just a quick and odd swerve that shows the character wasn’t fully developed. In the end, the character’s motives were absurd and unexpected.

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I will say, I did enjoy the performances by both Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris. I’ve been a fan of Mackie for a long time, so seeing him in this made the film better. Also, hearing him get called “Cap” filled my Marvel heart. Post-watching the movie, I learned that Damson Idris is British — his American accent was so convincing and well done. Moreover, the way the two worked together was what saved the movie. I thought Mackie and Idris connected really well, and their performances overpowered the two-hour flick.

Outside the Wire makes an incredibly strong effort with diversity. The two stars of the film are both people of color, which is remarkable to see in this day and age. Also, there are two supporting female characters, both of which portray authoritative women.

Do I think this is a movie you must see? No. The direction of the film fell flat, and ultimately, it had a disorganized and sloppy narrative.

Outside the Wire is now streaming on Netflix. The film is rated R for strong violence and language throughout.