The word “generic” is best described for Netflix’s Outside the Wire despite screenwriters Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe’s potentially ambitious Training Day-like premise in the mould of a sci-fi action thriller. The problem lies in its execution, where Mikael Håfström’s direction — the journeyman filmmaker who gave us Derailed (2005), 1408 (2007) and Escape Plan (2013) — is as bland and pedestrian as it gets.
Not that the movie lacks action because there are actually plenty of them throughout its nearly 2-hour length. But it’s all standard stuff, with the kind of action sequences that are neither visceral nor energetic. Frankly, it’s a waste of opportunity since Outside the Wire includes one of the main protagonists who happens to be a high-tech android soldier. That protagonist in question is Captain Leo played by Anthony Mackie, whose no-nonsense charm is among the least good things I can say about this movie. He teams up with a disgraced drone pilot named Harp (Damson Idris in an equally engaging performance), who gets reassigned following his military misconduct for disobeying a direct order.
From there, the story — set in 2036 during the Eastern European civil war –ventures into the aforementioned 2001 movie route, where Leo takes Harp on a ride and show him the ropes of surviving in the war zone.
Back to Anthony Mackie’s android-soldier role, I’m expecting he would pull off something cool and exciting during the action moments. Sure, we get to see him fight and shoot faster and more efficiently than the average human beings shown in this movie. But the choreography doesn’t have the necessary wow factor unlike the kind of sci-fi actioner we have seen in the likes of Terminator and RoboCop. As a result, for all the android-like appearance, Mackie’s Leo is pretty much like a typical action hero.
As mentioned earlier, both Mackie and Idris give above-average performances in their respective roles. And yet, it is just not enough to offset most of the shortcomings. The rest of the cast including Michael Kelly and Emily Beecham who play a high-ranking military officer and a resistance fighter respectively are sadly underused. The same also goes to Pilou Asbæk, whose antagonist role as Victor Koval is basically reduced into a forgettable, standard-issue villain.
Apart from the movie’s Training Day-like premise, Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe also slipped in an anti-war message somewhere in between and a revelation that exposed one of the characters’ actual motives. All of this would have given the movie an extra boost of a stronger narrative thrust. But then again, Håfström could only muster a half-baked sci-fi action thriller that fails to capitalise its potential.
Outside the Wire is currently streaming on Netflix beginning from January 15, 2021 onwards.