Outside the Wire is a 2021 scifi war thriller streaming on Netflix. The film is set in 2036 and stars Anthony Mackie (who also serves as a producer on the film) as an android officer who works with a drone pilot (Damson Idris) to stop a global catastrophe. Our short take on Outside the Wire is that it is possessed of both an interesting premise and a strong underlying message but certain narrative choices turn the third act into a unsatisfying cliché.
Please note that there are spoilers in our analysis of Outside the Wire that follows.
As mentioned above, the basic premise is promising. The drone pilot (Harp) disobeys orders to save lives in the opening sequence and is punished by being sent to the frontlines – the Ukraine DMZ – and is paired with the android Captain Leo on a mission to recover nuclear codes to Ukrainian missiles.
However, the whole issue of Leo’s very existence is glossed over in the plot, though we do see robot soldiers (‘gumps’) in the field but these gumps are not sentient in the same way as Leo. Leo’s existence is a secret though he reveals himself to Harp early on, for no good reason whatsoever – probably for the benefit of the audience.
Considering that Harp is obviously the main character of Outside the Wire, it was probably imperative for him to be made aware of Leo’s true identity. However, for at least the first two acts, Leo is the protagonist as he drags Harp along for his mission. In fact, in our estimation, Leo provides the movie’s main attraction as he takes out enemy combatants like a terminator and with his penchant for independent thought and wise cracks, is presented very much as the hero of the piece.
But then in the third act, Leo the protagonist morphs into Leo the antagonist as he embarks on a plan to launch nukes against the American mainland. His rationale is to teach the USA a lesson to stop interfering militarily in world affairs. He justifies his plan to Harp in the same manner that Harp rationalised killing some to save many in the opening sequence.
So, of course, that means Harp has to be the hero now in order to stop Leo’s evil scheme. And that’s when the third act falls flat on its face. Harp is not an engaging main character at all. We just could not root for him at all. Sure, it’s a clever twist but Leo made for such a popular character that to turn him into a two-dimensional baddy was an awful choice. Once that twist was revealed, we lost all interest in the movie.
Pity. There was much potential with the Leo character. Mackie’s sharp portrayal is probably the only reason to catch Outside the Wire – despite the character’s flawed logic – what a missed opportunity!
… still there’s more …