Don’t Bother Going Outside the Wire

Don’t Bother Going Outside the Wire

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Netflix’s latest original feature is Outside the Wire, which follows in the footsteps of Extraction, 6 Underground, and Triple Frontier. Despite an interesting premise, it quickly descends into a mediocre action flick with delusions of depth.

            The film opens with some text telling us the year is 2036, the place is Ukraine, and our protagonist’s excuse for shooting up the place is a civil war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian loyalists. Given that this is broadly similar to the current conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, it is worth mentioning the following fact that the film omits: Ukraine does have a functioning government and a military. Despite this truth, the film portrays the conflict as entirely between the separatists, a stabilization force of U.S. Marines and a loyalist civilian militia generically referred to as “the Resistance.” The film does not explain any of this. With that established, we are thrust immediately into a separatist ambush on a U.S. Marine patrol.

            Enter the film’s protagonist played by Damson Idris, a young Air Force lieutenant and drone pilot. Idris is introduced as cold, calculating, and completely separated from the conflict on the ground. He calmly snacks on gummy bears in his air-conditioned control center in Nevada while watching the Marines pinned down by enemy fire on the other side of the world. As one Marine becomes wounded and another rushes forward to help, a heavy truck comes roaring into Idris’s drone feed, rapidly approaching the pinned Marines.

Certain that the truck is an enemy launcher, a conclusion we are later informed was correct, Idris defies orders and launches a Hellfire missile at it, destroying the truck while also killing both the wounded Marine and the one attempting to save him. Rather than being court-martialed, he is instead deployed to the American base in Ukraine to serve under the command of Leo, a captain with Marine Special Operations Command (not to mention an advanced android) played by Anthony Mackie. From there, the plot launches into a race against the clock to acquire the launch codes for a series of nuclear missiles left in Ukraine after the Cold War, preceding a poorly thought out, third-act twist.

            There are a lot of problems with this movie. The biggest of which is that it attempts to delve into the morality of modern war and the increasing use of autonomous drones in combat without actually putting in the work. Its anti-war and anti-drone themes are hammered in periodically with a series of heavy-handed scenes interspersed between mostly bland action sequences, though a few Bourne-style close combat scenes do stand out. Too much of its message is delivered by telling us over and over again that drone warfare is bad and not enough time is spent showing us why. This strategy renders the prolonged dialogues uninteresting and will leave those seeking an action thriller bored. At the same time, all of the action scenes will leave those seeking a more intellectual exploration of the movie’s themes deprived of stimulation. For the former, I recommend The Expendables. For the latter, I recommend Good Kill.

All in all, 2 out of 5.

Skip it.