Cast your mind back to January last year. Nothing had shut down and it was looking like a new year with new possibilities. While the Oscar race heated up and UK cinema at least was starting to release prestige films, Netflix was using the time to dump its misfires on a greedy home audience, one willing to watch just about anything. When it comes to this year however, most cinema screens are shuttered and the Oscar hopefuls have nowhere to screen and gain traction. For Netflix however, its business as usual with January continuing to be a dumping ground for mindless nonsense like 2019’s Close and 2020’s A Fall From Grace. Mikael Håfström’s Outside The Wire, an action feature doubling as a clumsy morality play about the pros and cons of mutually assured destruction and the redistribution of power is 2021’s entry in this not so coveted category.
Following cocksure drone pilot Harp (Damson Idris), who after disobeying orders and costing two soldiers their lives is reassigned to a warzone in this near future where he is assigned to android officer Leo (Anthony Mackie) to avert a warlord from acquiring nuclear missiles. It’s the same cookie cutter, formula action storyline you’ve seen a hundred times where characters proclaim to care about human life while running and gunning through people like they are just good practice. However here the plot is so painfully convoluted, the sides so utterly detestable that a film begging for us to consider the value of human life makes you loathe the people trying to do better. For a film with robots and human looking androids, bandying around the word outlandish seems antithetical, but here the unbelievable elements come from the human characters thanks to a script too interested in finding the next splash of blood or explosion instead of making sense of Harp or Leo’s twisted logic. While trying to find a little humanity in a cold, metallic world, Outside The Wire lands Harp in a world where most of the people he encounters are psychotic. The twist being, that was never Håfström’s intention. This bloodthirsty road movie makes the ultimate mistake, it doesn’t go anywhere.