#REVIEW: “THE WALL”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
In the latest feature from Amazon Studios, the psychology of war is as much a weapon as the bullets in a sniper’s gun. The Wall is a deceptively simple Movie with only one major set – a crumbling wall surrounded by junk piles and abandoned vehicles. One of the three leads has zero screen time and is recognizable only by his voice as he toys with his opponent over a two-way radio. Another is face down in the sand or off-screen for most of the Movie, and the third actor is essentially trapped and unable to call for help. Using what sounds like the set-up for a great one act play, Director Doug Liman slowly pulls the audience into a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Pinned-down behind a crumbling wall, an injured Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is forced to fight a faceless foe and keep himself and his wounded comrade alive against increasingly bad odds. His enemy, the Iraqi sniper Juba (Laith Nakli), spends the Movie toying with Isaac attempting to learn more about him while revealing very little about himself.
WWE star John Cena isn’t asked to do much but clearly studied Duke from the old GI Joe cartoons for his portrayal of American sniper Matthews. Taylor-Johnson on the other hand, is onscreen most of the Me and works hard to find new ways to crouch, crawl, and squint given the limited space his character is able to occupy. His MacGyver-like abilities are a testament his character’s military history, even as his years of training slowly fall to the wayside thanks to Juba’s onslaught of questions and insights.
The minimalist feeling of the Movie is heightened by Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov who makes the arid desert feel increasingly claustrophobic as Isaac’s options run out. He juxtaposes the numerous close-ups of Taylor-Johnson’s eyes with the expanse of open space separating him from Juba to create the feeling of an enclosed room rather than a vast desert.
Liman has an impressive résumé of action movies including The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Edge of Tomorrow. These broad movies with their multiple locations, huge set pieces, and massive casts were clearly not the templates from which The Wall was born. One set, three actors, and fewer big action scenes than the opening sequence of the average Bourne movie make this a very atypical Movie for a man known for very big explosions. The restraint of The Wall suits Liman well and while some may complain about the lack of explosions I think this subtle reaction to the typical jingoistic American military movie is intriguing.
What makes the Movie truly interesting is its anti-Bay sentiments. In a traditional Michael Bay movie, America always wins while the Stars and Stripes wave somewhere in the background. Dwain Worrell’s script is the exact opposite: from the proudly waving Iraqi flag to the disembodied voice of the Iraqi sniper who outsmarts Isaac at every turn, it is the Americans who are at a constant disadvantage.
The Wall is not your typical pro-military movie: a thriller that posits the theory America is fallible goes against the genre and that is why it works. By resisting the urge to make a cookie cutter war Movie, The Wall has become something far more interesting and worthy of your box office dollars.
Elevation Pictures release THE WALL on Friday, May 12, 2017.