The Sci-Fi War Film has enough tricks up its sleeve to elevate it beyond its Sci-Fi War Film conventions.
The Mikael Håfström directed film gives both Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris a bit more to chew on than your average sci-fi war film. The results are both thrilling and intelligently told genre pic.
The year is 2036, the US is aiding in a quickly escalating conflict between Europe and Russia. Mechanized AI and Drones have become tools in combat. Drone Pilot Thomas Harp (Idris) is almost court-martialed after disobeying direct orders that cost men to lose their lives. Harp is sent to the front lines. The young man who’s never seen combat up close is under the command of Captain Leo (Mackie). Harp and Leo’s mission? To find and kill a rogue Russian General Koval (Pilou Asbæk) before he has time to acquire launch codes for nuclear missiles.
What begins as a standard war film ends as a clever piece of science fiction. Though many avid readers of sci-fi literature will know the particular plot points all too well. The script by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale smartly converges the conventions of both the war thriller and the android story to great effect. The duo’s script smartly focuses on relationships and character rather than the bombast of action.
That focus on character is also apparent in Håfström direction. Rather than making a traditional sci-fi war thriller, he’s leaned into the strengths of the script as a character piece. This gives the action set pieces stakes. There is always a human cost that Håfström working with cinematographer Michael Bonvillain and editor Rickard Krantz make sure to focus on during these moments. For a film that is dealing with science fiction on a harder level, it is refreshing to see both director and screenwriters focusing on the human element.
Anthony Mackie continues to show how underutilized he is as a Leading Man. As Leo the newest weapon the US Military has to offer, Mackie brings gravitas, charisma, and menace to the role. There’s a beguiling wit to everything that Mackie does as Leo that sells the biggest plot pivots in the film. Though the rest of the cast is solid it is the Star Presence of Mackie (who also produced the picture) that elevates the film.
Outside the Wire could have been your standard-issue techno-thriller. A smart script and the gravitas of its star Anthony Mackie make this piece of action cinema one that many will be surprised by.