Set in 2007, as the initial conflict in Iraq was coming to an end, a two-man sniper team is sent into the desert to investigate who shot a construction team working on an oil pipeline. When one of the snipers is shot, and the other becomes pinned down behind a semi-destroyed wall it looks like it might be over for the team. The Wall is directed by Doug Liman and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, and Laith Nakli.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is an extremely talented actor, with some great action, comedy and dramatic skills so it would make sense he would want to do a movie like this. It is essentially him on screen for 90 mins, granted the climate would have been less than appealing but most actors would love this opportunity. This was a solid performance from him but nowhere near what he is capable of as an actor, he mostly just yelled, swore and limped around. There is an attempt to create depth through a back-story, in a similar vain to Chris Kyle in American Sniper or Jeremy Renner’s character in The Hurt Locker, but it feels like it lacks the same impact. This is a common theme for The Wall. I find the acting career of John Cena to be a fascinating one, where he takes smaller roles that allow him to work on his craft and show off his strengths, and this is exactly what he is able to do with The Wall. The role is relatively small as this is ATJ’s movie and doesn’t require a whole lot of acting but Cena puts in the effort that will see him become another big wrestler turned actor like Dwayne Johnson or Dave Bautista.
At first glance, the movie seems like a war version of Phone Booth, the film with Colin Farrell trapped in a phone booth by a sniper. Taylor-Johnson is trapped behind the wall with an Iraqi sniper talking to him through his radio. The idea behind Phone Booth was for ‘bad people’ to expose themselves for what they are or a sniper would shoot them. What director Doug Liman did with this concept was put it in the Iraqi desert and raise questions about the war. The problem with this the movie is it does not know what stance it wants to take, and it wants Taylor-Johnson’s character to be the hero whilst simultaneously making the audience empathize with the sniper trying to kill him, and it just doesn’t work.
The interesting thing about the movie is it tries to take a stance on the war but at the same time it does not. We see in movies like American Sniper and even Zero Dark Thirty take a very pro war, pro-American stance, in a very patriotic way. The Wall somewhat shows the conflict from the eyes of an American soldier witnessing the enemy break rules of engagement, gunning down people so they will call for help, creating more targets for him to kill. Though it also puts forth some political questions regarding the Iraq War, why US troops were there and the toll it was taking on those soldiers. It creates an enemy that the audience would have no problem watching him die, whilst also highlighting the negative sides of war from the perspective of both sides. Not taking a stance is not quite as bad as taking a really strong stance i.e. American Sniper but it doesn’t feel like it truly achieves the gray nature of war.
The Wall has a decent Aaron Taylor-Johnson performance, but he’s done better, it is an introduction to John Cena in a more dramatic setting, but he is never really given a moment to shine. Neither does it have great action, switch your brain off type of movie or a film with a deep message regarding war. The Wall honestly feels like a Phone Booth knock off that doesn’t hit the emotional or moral depths it sets out too. It might be the sort of film that a cine-file might enjoy, given there is plenty of interesting film making techniques, but the average movie goer might not be as attracted to those elements.
This is a hard movie to recommend, not because it is bad but because there is no direct audience. It is not an action pack war film, and it is not completely a moral and ethical film. If the marketing intrigues you then check it out, other wise you are not missing much.
The Wall scores a 5/10
Do you plan to see The Wall? Have you seen it? Let me know in the comments section below?
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