The buddy cop genre receives a new addition in Netflix’s, Outside the Wire from director Mikael Håfström. The film written by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale takes place in 2036, where America serves as a peacekeeping force. Human troops on both sides are supported by robot combatants called Gumps and drone pilots monitoring skirmishes from thousands of miles away.
Headstrong drone pilot Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris) disobeys a direct order to not intervene in a conflict. The Army then deploys him to a military outpost to confront his button-pushing human costs. Harp’s expectations of guarding a fence are upended when his new commanding officer Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), announces plans to infiltrate the demilitarized zone. The mission is to apprehend Viktor Koval (Pilou Asbæk), a warlord who intends to launch a network of dormant nuclear weapons.
Harp learns that his theoretical experience as a drone pilot means little out on the battlefield under enemy attack —especially after discovering Leo is an A.I.-enhanced super-soldier. Whose strength, speed, and demand for results promise to turn his real-world education into a trial by fire.
I can recall hearing about Outside the Wire’s general details in the summer of 2019, and I was instantly sold on the project for three reasons. First, I learned that it would feature two black leads in a science fiction film. There are science fiction films with all-black casts going all the way back to 1940’s Son of Ingagi. However, as far back as age seven, my creative mind wanted to see films like Alien Nation with Carl Weathers & Denzel Washington in the lead roles.
Second, I generally enjoyed the director Mikael Håfström previous films Escape Plan, 1408 and Derailed. All three of the films were different, and I wanted to see how he would handle an effects-filled extravaganza. Finally, I’m an Air Force Veteran, so I tend to relate to a military film with a lead character that looks like me.
My initial thoughts on Outside the Wire were that the film would be a fish out of water story for Anthony Mackie’s character, who learns the art of humanity from pilot Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris). The film does feature some initial banter between the two. Still, around the second half of the film, screenwriters Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale take the movie somewhere different, which I won’t spoil here.
Fresh off his role in the past fall Synchronic, another science fiction film, Anthony Mackie continues to shine in genre pics. In his portrayal of Leo, he delivers some solid one-liners and has some fantastic fight scenes. Damson Idris brings a friendly rookie approach to his role as well. Sadly, outside of the performance from our two leads, Outside the Wire is a letdown.
One of the most significant issues of the film was the lack of an arc for our primary antagonist Viktor Koval (Pilou Asbæk). Given the actor’s previous work, I expected him to deliver something great. Instead, he gives a dry by the number’s performance, which ends up being more of an extended cameo. Earlier I mentioned that screenwriters Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale give the film a shift in the second half that for me, doesn’t work. Furthermore, die-hard science fiction fans will end up picking up on the twist pretty quickly.
Despite good performances from our leads and some impressive action sequences, as a whole, Outside the Wire collapses under its own narrative. After a strong first half, the film’s second half turns into a predictable flick that erases its promise.
Final Grade C
Outside the Wire will be available to stream on 15 Jan at Netflix!