The Wall (2017)

The-Wall-rev The Wall  (2017)    Roadside Attractions/Action-Thriller    RT: 81 minutes    Rated R (language throughout, some war violence)    Director: Doug Liman    Screenplay: Dwain Worrell    Cinematography: Roman Vasyanov    Release date: May 12, 2017 (US)    Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli.


 I expected so much more from The Wall given that it’s directed by Doug Liman whose filmography includes Swingers, Go, The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow. It’s a pretty impressive resume, no? So what happened with The Wall? This movie is a bore! It’s about an American soldier in Iraq being pinned behind a crumbling wall by an unseen sniper. The whole movie has him trying to figure a way out of the situation and talking to his assailant via an earpiece radio. That’s it. It’s a one-man show (for the most part) in a single setting. It seems like a skimpy premise but I’ve seen movies predicated on similar scenarios like Locke and Phone Booth, both of which are far superior to The Wall. Liman’s attempt to make a taut, tense thriller is undermined by a screenplay that still feels dragged out at a mere 81 minutes.

wall The story is set in 2007. The Iraqi War is over but some soldiers have stayed behind to handle tasks like security for American contractors. As the movie opens, two soldiers- shooter Shane Matthews (Cena, The Marine) and his spotter Isaac (Johnson, Nocturnal Animals)- have been observing the site where several contactors building a pipeline have been killed by gunfire. They think it’s all clear but it’s not. They both get shot. Shane is down for most of the movie. A wounded Isaac manages to crawl behind the titular wall. He’s been shot in the leg, with his radio and water bottle damaged as well. He can’t get to his friend so he’s not even sure whether he’s alive or not. He doesn’t know the location of the sniper either. Then he’s contacted on his radio by somebody claiming to be with American military but is really the Iraqi shooter (voice of Nakli), an educated sort who quotes Edgar Allen Poe and expounds on foreign policy.

 Cena is credited as co-star but his character is conscious for approximately five minutes leaving Johnson to carry the movie on his own. His character Isaac is one those redneck types who aren’t very learned. He doesn’t put a lot of thought into duties as a US soldier or the geopolitical reasons behind the Iraqi War; he does what he does out of blind patriotism and not being qualified to do much else. That’s the impression I get anyway. He speaks of some past traumatic event during combat that’s left him unable to fire a gun. Therefore, we know that he will be required to do just that by movie’s end. In any event, his character here is only slightly more likable than the creep he played in last year’s wonderful Nocturnal Animals.

 The only mildly interesting thing about The Wall is the dusty, dirty desert atmosphere created by Liman. You can practically taste the sand and grit in your mouth it’s so thick. Isaac is covered in it which I guess is supposed to be some kind of metaphor. But this gets old fast. In the end, The Wall is little more than a minimalist version of American Sniper or Lone Survivor. Liman eschews including a score to help build tension instead hoping it will happen organically based on the on-screen action. It worked for the Coen brothers in No Country for Old Men but it has the opposite effect here. Many times I came perilously close to falling asleep on The Wall. It was only through sheer will and the caffeine boost provided by movie beverage of choice (Coke Zero) that I managed to stay awake. The studio didn’t market this movie very aggressively. In fact, they didn’t market it at all*. I only knew it was coming out when I saw it on the schedule at my local multiplex. Now I know why. The Wall is a complete misfire. It’s a nothing movie that will go nowhere other than the realm of rightfully forgotten films.

*= A friend told me they showed ads for it during wrestling shows on TV. After all, one of their own (Cena) co-stars in it.

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