The 400-Word Review: Outside the Wire
By Sean Collier
January 19, 2021
A question, the answer of which is known only through Netflix’s eternally secret viewership numbers: What kind of movie are people looking for from the crimson streaming monolith?
The massively powerful company, whose fortunes have only been raised by pandemic-era changes in film viewing, this week trotted out an impressive sizzle reel claiming that they will drop a brand-new movie to North American audiences every Friday in 2021. Yet even after several years as a wholly legitimate arm for movie distribution, the service still doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.
In short: Is Netflix looking for interesting, remarkable films? Or are they looking for half-watch filler like “Outside the Wire,” their latest new feature?
They certainly put out quite a few movies like “Outside the Wire.” The streamer has an affinity for humorless, kinetic yarns of mild spectacle that mill about in the genre antechamber between action, science fiction and comic-book fare. “Extraction,” “Point Blank,” “Project Power,” “Triple Frontier” — all gun-toting rampages serious as the grave, featuring stars at or near the A-list, designed to be occasionally glanced at over your phone then swiftly forgotten.
This time: It’s the near future, and there’s a muddy war going on in the Ukraine. When drone pilot Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) makes a fatal call from the other side of the planet, he’s punished with some front-line duty working underneath grouchy Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie). He is not informed in advance that Leo is actually a highly convincing cyborg; it’s not until they’re deep into a dangerous mission that Leo reveals that Harp was selected specifically for his tendency to disobey orders and protocol.
Screenwriters Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale, who simply cannot get enough of making their characters explain what’s going on for the benefit of those at home, at least have the foresight to stretch out the setup. They know that, once the cards are on the table, it’s the same escalating sequence of wartime complications we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Journeyman director Mikael Håfström at least mines some decent Robocop-meets-Jason-Bourne acrobatics out of Leo, but adds little besides.
So what’s it going to be, Netflix? Adventurous films like “The Forty-Year-Old Version” and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” or a dozen more “Outside the Wire” clones?
Wait, that’s right: They have billions of dollars. They’re just going to make every kind of movie they possibly can.
My Rating: 4/10
“Outside the Wire” is streaming on Netflix.