There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
The year is 2036 and the UK is in the middle of a civil war. The US military has been deployed in the area with the hopes that they will keep the peace, but a war lord named Victor Koval (Pilou Asbaek) has been profiting from the chaos. When a unit of 40 soldiers are pinned down in the field, a drone pilot finds himself in an impossible situation. Harp (Damson Idris) spots a launcher that could kill all 40 soldiers, but if he uses his drone to eliminate the threat, it will mean sacrificing two US soldiers. He has been given direct orders not to strike, but he ultimately takes matters into his own hands in order to save the other 38 soldiers.
This decision comes with a cost however. Although his career in the military has not come to an end, he has been taken off of the drone team and he has been given a new assignment. He has been assigned to the mysterious Officer Leo (Anthony Mackie), who Harp has been told is not like other soldiers. He quickly stumbles upon a bombshell revelation, as he discovers that Leo is actually a highly sophisticated prototype android. Leo’s mission is to venture from the safe zone known as "The Wire" and locate the dangerous Victor Koval. While Leo may have been designed for missions such as this one, Harp is just a drone pilot who has no field experience, and this may very well be a suicide mission for him.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Prototype (-2pts)
The Action (+5pts)
Leo’s Goals (-4pts)
Drone Strikes (+4pts)
Pro: Humanity (+4pts)
Due to the movie's premise, the filmmakers were able to comment on humanity, what it means to be human, and what it means to be alive. What is funny, is that just a day prior to watching this movie, I was having a discussion with someone who was trying to say that C-3PO is an alien, and when I said he is not, because he is not alive, they asked me what it meant to be "alive"? Now, I stand by my statement that C-3PO is not alive—making him a droid and not an alien—the android in this movie was a lot closer to the line of what one would consider to be "alive". This allowed the filmmakers to make the audience think.
Does one define life as having organic organs? If so, what would happen if a human had to have all of their organs replaced with mechanical ones? Does being alive require the ability to think freely, or does it require one to have emotions? If so, what if an android could be designed to have those things? Would there be a point in which an android could be so sophisticated that they could be considered to be alive? While I thought it was unfortunate that the filmmakers did not dive deeper into these questions, I still enjoyed the questions themselves. The filmmakers delivered a typical action movie, but they also delivered a number of thought-provoking questions about life and humanity in general, and I enjoyed thinking about these things within the context of the movie.
Con: The Prototype (-2pts)
Okay, this was a pretty minor gripe, but I thought it was a little silly to have Leo be this 5 year old, incredibly advanced android, while both sides of the war had droid soldiers that seemed decades behind the technology that clearly went into Leo. I get that Leo was just a prototype, and that it would take years for him to be replicated on the scale necessary to have a military force made up of android soldiers like him. However, this movie took place in 2036, and we do not have anything near even the more primitive looking droid soldiers that were in this movie. I bought that the primitive looking droids could be invented and implemented in 15 years—between 2021 and 2036. I did not buy that the technology used to create Leo was only 15 years away—which is ignoring the fact that Leo was 5 years old during the events of this movie. I also did not buy the gap in technology between Leo and the more primitive droid soldiers. Again, this was a pretty minor gripe, but the technology used to create Leo did not seem to line up with the other droids or the year in which this movie took place.
Pro: The Action (+5pts)
The action in this movie involving Leo was pretty cool. He was basically a super-soldier, and it was cool to see him going up against the various baddies and obstacles in his path. Beyond that, the action in this movie was nothing special, but it kept me engaged. The filmmakers did resort to shaky cam in a few scenes, but they did not do this all the time, and the action was still exciting enough to keep me watching. I do not think anyone will come out of this movie blown away by the action they just watched, but I thought it was decent enough action for a movie such as this one.
Con: Leo’s Goals (-4pts)
Leo's goals in this movie were a bit too generic for me. We have seen countless characters with his exact goal, and it sort of ruined the character for me. I was totally into this character throughout the first two acts of the story. He was awesome in all of his action sequences, and his story raised all of the compelling questions about humanity that I mentioned earlier. The filmmakers were off to a great start with this character, and they just needed to stick the landing with the third act. Unfortunately, I did not think they accomplished that.
The third act started, and Leo's story became completely generic. His goal was generic, and his plan to achieve his goal was generic. I do not want to spoil the movie, so I do not want to say much more than that. Just know that the filmmakers sort of dropped the ball with this character in the third act. You will likely be interested in the character up until then, but once the third act started, you will feel like you have seen this character a thousand times before, and it made the end of the movie predictable and uninteresting.
Pro: Drone Strikes (+4pts)
Another compelling thing that the premise introduced was the impact of drone strikes. Drone strikes are a great tool for war, if you are thinking exclusively of reducing the number of soldier deaths on your side. However, they are not without their cost. One cost is that they demolish everything in their path, so using a drone strike when you are not 100% certain of who is in the area can have horrible consequences. Another cost is that the person firing the weapon can become emotionally detached from what their doing, making them less likely to understand the ramifications of their actions and the responsibility in their hands. The last cost relevant to this movie was that they result in what all war results in, which is families destroyed, as parents go to war and get killed. This movie was not entirely about drone strikes and the moral implications of them, but the plot meant taking a look at the side effects of drone strikes, which is something that a lot of movies gloss over.
Con: Harp (-4pts)
I understand that this guy was a drone pilot who was thrust into the field without any field experience whatsoever, but Harp ended up being completely useless throughout almost all of the action. Even in the action sequences in which he was supposedly saving people, he ended up doing almost nothing, and the people he saved would have been no worse off if he was not present—and to be honest, they would have been better off, because they would not have been in that situation in the first place. Throughout almost all of the action in the movie, Harp was either just standing around, amazed at Leo handling things on his own, or he was ducking for cover. Then the third act came, and the filmmakers needed him to contribute, so they just made him brave all of a sudden, but I did not think this change was at all justified. On paper, I understand the direction the filmmakers took him in, due to his lack of field experience, but making him at least try to contribute would have gone a long way in making the character feel relevant in the first two acts. It also would have made it feel natural for him to take matters into his own hands in act three.
Grade: C+ (78pts)
Outside the Wire was a typical action movie, but it’s premise introduced a number of thought-provoking elements. The action was typical, because while Leo was a cool action character, really none of the action sequences were anything special. It was fine, but it will not exactly knock your socks off. Then there were the thought-provoking elements of the story. The premise naturally made viewers think about humanity, what it means to be human, and what it means to be alive, and it also forced viewers to think about the costs of drone strikes. The filmmakers did not make any real statement regarding these things, but simply raising these questions made the movie intriguing.
One issue I had with the movie was with respect to the technology that made up Leo, with respect to the year in which this movie took place and the technology that made up the other droid soldiers. I also thought Leo's motivations in the third act became very generic, as it made me feel like I have seen this character about a thousand times before. Finally, the main character was useless in the first two acts, and him taking matters into his own hands in the third act felt completely unjustified. These were not major issues, but the movie's strengths were not enough to make up for them entirely.