Outside the Wire (3 stars)

Outside the Wire

The MCU's Anthony Mackie takes centre stage in an entertaining if inconsistent sci-fi actioner

Anthony Mackie's action man chops are given a robust work-out in this sci-fi combat film, set in 2036 and directed by Sweden's Mikael Håfström (Escape Plan, The Rite). Best known as Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a character frequently sidelined in those densely populated films, here Mackie shares leading man duties with rising British star Damson Idris (Farming), and the pair bring conviction to what can be a pretty sketchy story.

The premise is, at least, an interesting one. When 'brilliant drone pilot' Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Idris) directly disobeys orders and drops a bomb on an armoured truck he believes contains a rocket launcher, two marines are killed in the blast – although he may have saved the lives of many more. Because Harp has never been in a conflict zone, the disciplinary committee believe time on the ground will teach him to exercise caution and they send him to serve under the command of Captain Leo (Mackie).

Leo is stationed in Ukraine, where the US are acting as peacekeepers during a bloody civil war in which ruthless criminal Viktor Koval (Game of Thrones' Pilou Asbæk) is a major player and robotic soldiers, known as Gumps, play their part. There's a big surprise in store for Harp when it's quickly revealed that the apparently maverick Leo is actually an android prototype. In a neat subversion, Leo's acute sensory perception means he feels more than humans do, and is perversely in a position to teach the buttoned-up Harp something about compassion.

Mackie's brand of intense integrity is well-suited to the material and Idris is more than capable of rendering Harp's own emotional journey credible, but excellent performers like Michael Kelly and Asbæk, in particular, are underused. Håfström's efforts are solidly rather than spectacularly entertaining; if the story initially intrigues, it makes less and less sense with every twist and turn, though it retains an overarching yet undermined sense of morality – it's hard to argue persuasively against US military incursions when your film is simultaneously trying to derive excitement from armed conflict. Outside the Wire is probably too bombastic and inconsistent to take hugely seriously, but features some decent ideas and its intentions are largely honourable.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 15 Jan.

Outside the Wire

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 55min
  • Directed by: Mikael Håfström
  • Cast: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Pilou Asbæk