Netflix’s ‘Outside the Wire’ Short Circuits; Liam Neeson’s ‘The Marksman’ Hits its Target

Anthony Mackie as Captain Leo and Damson Idris as Lieutenant Harp in Outside the Wire

A Netflix original movie, Outside the Wire is set amongst a war between Russia and the European Union as Russia invades Ukraine. We follow Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris), a drone pilot sent to the front line after disobeying an order. He is assigned to Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), a humanistic android tasked with teaching Harp compassion and empathy. Directed by Mikael Håfström (Escape Plan), Outside The Wire wants to depict the casualties that come with war through the film’s visuals and plot, but ultimately fails. 

The production design is impressive, ranging from crowded marketplaces in a refugee camp to empty streets of the city where battles take place. The film’s backgrounds help immerse the audience in its wartorn setting. Being set in the year 2036, there are android soldiers who fight on the battlefield to reduce human casualties. The CGI used for the androids is noticeable and sometimes B-movie quality. The CGI used for Anthony Mackie’s character is an exception, and looked realistic. 

The writing is another issue. Dialogue, especially in scenes involving car rides, feels forced and awkward. Håfström chooses to have Harp and Leo switch perspectives frequently throughout the film, and it can become confusing. The character of Leo is also morally hypocritical as a role model for Harp. Leo is supposed to expose Harp to the suffering of refugees and victims of war, yet defends the use of torture for information; Harp even tries to step in and stop Leo from torturing another solider, but is quickly told to “man up.” As a result, Harp’s development as a character is bumpy. His actions sometimes demonstrate empathy, and in other scenes he acts heartlessly and arrogant. After superficially saving a few hostages, Harp becomes a hero and is suddenly woke to the grave consequences of war. Outside the Wire raises the interesting question, “can androids teach empathy and other such traits to a human?”, but the writing isn’t strong enough for Håfström to capitalize on his premise and I failed to become properly invested. The sense of urgency is never there, and the stakes aren’t ever made high enough.Outside the Wire may look good, but is scarce in thematic or character depth. The movie is ultimately forgettable, another trite sci-fi thriller where nuclear weapons threaten the U.S.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Outside the Wire is streaming now on Netflix

Liam Neeson as Jim in The Marksman

The movie may star Liam Neeson, but The Marksman is more than aimless violence – the film is a surprisingly moving story about loss and life’s obstacles. 

Written and directed by Robert Lorenz (Trouble with the Curve), The Marksman follows Jim, an ex-marine who chose the quiet life of the rancher along the Arizona-Mexico border. When he runs into Miguel (Jacob Perez), a child on the run from the cartel, Jim is forced to help the boy reach his family in Chicago. 

Based on the title and the trailers for the movie, I, as several other critics, expected The Marksman to be another action-packed thriller in the greater filmography of Liam Neeson. However, the film is relatively tame compared to some of Neeson’s other works. There are occasional shootouts, but The Marksman spent more time on the road with Jim and Miguel…and I was okay with that. We watch as Jim tries to be a role model for the impressionable Miguel. The film has been unfairly criticized for its inherent lack of action, but I feel the failure lies more on the side of the advertising team – The Marksman is moreso a drama than a thriller.

The characters are initially familiar, but as the film progressed they began to grow on me. Jim and Miguel bond over having lost loved ones, and in more tender moments The Marksman demonstrates how grief is carried through generations. They may not share ethnicity or age, but they nonetheless understand each other, and this helps build a strong parallel between Jim and Miguel. Their relationship begins cold, as Miguel is shy and Jim is stubborn about having to look after him, but this does not last long. The film grows increasingly light hearted throughout its runtime, and I liked watching Jim become a father figure in his actions. I felt an emotional attachment to Jim and Miguel during their journey, and enjoyed watching them develop as characters. 

The Marksman takes a little bit to get going, and even when it does, the film spends so much time following Jim and Miguel riding around, the pacing can sometimes be on the slower side. Obstacles pile up on their trip to Chicago, and come close to being repetitive. When the film reaches its final act, the pacing lifts off and almost feels rushed, but the sprint to the finish line is a welcome one after spending so much time in the car with Liam Neeson and co. I did appreciate Lorenz giving his characters the chance to get to know each other and have room to breathe, a necessity for their successful development, but the story could’ve been told smoother. The Marksman isn’t an instant classic, but is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Marksman is in theaters today

Author: matthewb500

My name is Matthew Bassett and I’ve been interested in film for years now. My favorite movie of all time would be Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. As a percussion player I fell in love with the music in the movie and strongly related to Miles Teller’s character. Other Directors I love are Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. The genres I prefer to watch are action and dramas but over the past couple of years I’ve gotten pretty deep into horror and thriller movies. I enjoy reviewing and critiquing movies as one day I hope to write and direct movies myself.

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