Netflix has stated they are going to release a new movie every week this year, a process that kicked off with Outside the Wire.
Set in the not-too-distant future on the edge of a warzone in eastern Europe, Outside the Wire follows the story of military drone pilot Harp who makes a judgement call and uses his drone to blow up a threatening truck, which may or may not have saved 38 marines, but definitely killed two. Because he defied a direct order, he is sent to report to Captain Leo. Leo is on a mission to deliver supplies to refugees ‘outside the wire’ of the zone between the factions and Harp is going to see his first ‘real’ action amongst the soldiers he is used to seeing only on camera.
It is swiftly revealed that Leo is not human, but an advanced AI in a human shape. He and Harp set out on their mission and Harp begins to realize that Leo has some ulterior motives. It turns out that just because you put an AI in an Anthony Mackie-shaped form does not mean it will not come to the same conclusion that all movie AIs come to – humans are the issue.
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, the movie begins well and brings up some really interesting points. Do drone pilots have a disconnect from the soldiers they are protecting? Should ground forces be replaced with robots? Is this particular AI too chit-chatty – I mean, why is he so interested in Harp’s girlfriend? Setting the story in the near future makes it somewhat relatable, but the ambiguous ‘war zone’ has the opposite effect. Harp’s actions in the beginning make it a little tough to cheer for him, and Leo is entirely too likeable for his inevitable swing to standard AI villainy. The action sequences are pretty great, especially the hand-to-hand bits where Mackie gets to pummel band guys very quickly.
Anthony Mackie is incredibly charming and watchable, even as a robot. It is interesting that his artificial person here is similar to his Altered Carbon season 2 sleeve. He turns Leo into someone you want to root for, which is what makes his turn a little difficult to buy.
Damson Idris plays Harp and seems fairly one-note for a guy who should be a bit shaken having made the decision that killed two soldiers and a wife-to-be to get back to. He seems perplexed by Leo’s operations outside the wire negotiating with locals. I found myself wondering if that was the direction or the choice.
I was happy to see Emily Beecham in this, having been a fan of hers from Into the Badlands. Here, she plays rebel leader Sofiya, who works with Leo to get what she needs to accomplish her goals. I am not entirely sure what those are.
Michael Kelly plays Col. Eckhart, the no-nonsense boss on the base who has no time for Harp, or his nonsense, or Leo, or Leo’s nonsense.
Pilou Asbaek plays Victor Koval, who is set up as a near-mythical villain orchestrating the entire conflict, with followers so devoted they spray paint his initials in various locations.
Overall the movie was entertaining enough in the first two-thirds, but really fell apart in the last third. I can not tell if I stopped paying attention or if it stopped making sense. This is always going to be an issue with a streaming movie. I would have paid more attention had I seen it in the theater, but then, I would be less satisfied with the movie itself.
5 out of 10.
This is another one that is just fine for a streaming movie – but definitely feels like a January-theater dump action flick. Since I never really mind those movies, I do not have a problem with this one, there were enough parts to keep me entertained as I enjoyed my popcorn.