Hot Take: It starts off intense but becomes grating. It’s hard to get invested into characters with very little back story or a highly dissatisfying one.
The Wall isn’t an original concept. Maybe if you fall for its Iraqi war disguise, you don’t recognize 2002’s Phone Booth but that’s basically what it is. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing but don’t get too carried away with giving the film points for originality.
The Wall is a simple and tightly wound: A scout-sniper team (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena) are sent to check an area near a pipeline during the Iraq war and despite deeming it safe after hours of surveillance, the two come under fire from an unseen sniper. As Matthews (Cena) bleeds out, Isaac (Taylor-Johnson) connects with the sniper through radio contact while Isaac maintains safety behind a poorly built wall. The unseen sniper antagonizes Isaac to try to draw him out to finish him off. The standoff is basically the movie.
At 81 minutes, there’s something to be said when the film can be described as somewhat long and drawn out. I think the real problem isn’t the length of the film but what it tries and fails to accomplish. Director Doug Liman looks to put the audience into the shoes of the pinned down Isaac by drawing out every dusty, blood dripping scene as far as he can take it. What’s missing is something to immerse the audience into the character which keeps us a safe distance from Isaac and instead of being there with him, we’re watching from afar which dulls the senses to the hell Isaac is going through. By the time the movie gives us a reason to care about Isaac, it’s too late.
Give credit to the cinematographer (Roman Vasnayov) for trying to put us into the shoes (well, mostly eyes as this is done through the lens of a rifle sight or scout scope) of our heroes under fire. If only the writer and director found a way to do the same for the audience, The Wall might have been a winner. Instead, it falls short of being anything more than mediocre. It emphasizes that war is hell and unforgiving but we already knew that, didn’t we?
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- John Cena
At this point, we’re not counting on Cena to be the second coming of The Rock on the big screen. Cast correctly, as he is here, Cena’s persona shines and he fits as a jarhead in the wastelands of the Iraqi desert. It’s too bad he spends most of the movie unconscious and bleeding out in the middle of the desert because he’s the best part of the film’s opening.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Why Care?
Like American Sniper or not, it’s almost impossible to watch that film and not be immersed into the world of Chris Kyle and have an attachment to the character. Here, Liman misses the mark by putting an emotional yardstick in between the audience and its two main characters. Heck, there are times where you’re probably more concerned about the wellbeing of the unseen sniper.
- You Might Put It All Together
The puzzling circumstances that has put Isaac and Matthews in the middle of a shooting gallery are murky but there’s enough information here to figure out what’s going on.