Set in 2007, after the official end of the Iraq war had been announced, The Wall follows two American soldiers who investigate the area where civilian workers were attacked during the construction of an oil pipeline. The soldiers find themselves pinned behind a crumbling wall by an enemy sniper and struggling for survival.
Directed by Doug Liman (Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) and written by Dwain Worrell (Netflix’s Iron Fist), the film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and professional wrestler John Cena as the trapped American soldiers, as well as Laith Nakli (The Visitor, Amira & Sam) as the voice of the Iraqi sniper. The Wall makes the most of its minimalist cast and setting, however, the main strength is the pacing. Though some of the plot points are predictable, the tension builds gradually while also offering calmer moments that allow the audience to pause for breath. The unforgiving harshness of the desert landscape is also conveyed successfully.
Most of the film is carried by Taylor-Johnson who delivers a satisfactory performance. There is nothing exceptionally charismatic about his portrayal of Sergeant Isaac, but he does a fair job conveying the desperation, fear, and isolation Isaac feels. The film attempts to get political and prompt the audience – and Isaac – to consider what the real motivations may be for the United States to maintain a military presence in Iraq after the war has officially ended.
Unfortunately, The Wall’s strengths are undermined by poorly written dialogue that is uncomfortably on-the-nose and contains an unnecessary amount of exposition. Rather than let the audience contemplate the meaning of the titular wall for themselves, it is all spelled out clearly in the script. While occasionally obvious to the point of becoming painful, mostly it just makes everything kind of boring. Subtlety can go a long way, but there isn’t any nuance to be found here. The result is dialogue that feels forced and unnatural.
Though there are some promising ingredients, the movie’s bland dialogue, often predicable plot, and mediocre performances make The Wall just okay. It isn’t awful, but it isn’t particularly memorable either.
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