Outside the Wire review: An action-packed war movie with a message

OUTSIDE THE WIRE, ​Anthony Mackie ​as ​Leo, Damson Idris as Harp, in OUTSIDE THE WIRE. Cr. ​Jonathan Prime​/NETFLIX ​© ​2020
OUTSIDE THE WIRE, ​Anthony Mackie ​as ​Leo, Damson Idris as Harp, in OUTSIDE THE WIRE. Cr. ​Jonathan Prime​/NETFLIX ​© ​2020 /

Outside the Wire delivers the action, but the message is its selling point

The new Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Endgame)  and Damson Idris (Snowfall) movie, Outside the Wire, sells itself on being action-packed and having futuristic elements. When I sat down to watch, I expected a fun movie along the lines of Extraction but with a sci-fi twist. Very quickly it became clear that this was a serious war movie and it reminded me of the Black Mirror episode “Men Against Fire.

Outside the Wire opens with a description of a not-so-distant future where the U.S. Army has deployed robotic soldiers into combat for the first time, supported by ground forces. The first scene is an ambush where the robot soldiers are neutralized and the human soldiers are pinned down.

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Idris’s character, Harp, is a drone pilot providing air cover for the ground troops and when he disobeys an order he is punished by being sent to join the troops on the ground. What I liked about this opening sequence was that we see the intensity of the fight on the ground, the struggle, the fear, the pain in the soldiers’ voices and faces, and then it cuts to Harp sitting in an air-conditioned room eating chips while flying the drone overhead.

This was one of the first real points the movie makes about the state of combat and they don’t stop with just that juxtaposition. Harp’s character has to face what he has done in person when he lands on the battlefield and suddenly those drone strikes he’s been sending out don’t seem as innocent as he had once perceived them to be. He hadn’t previously had to see the human toll on the ground and you can tell it affects him.

Anthony Mackie gets to be more powerful in this movie than he is in the MCU

When he arrives at the battlefield he learns he is assigned to Leo and is given the warning that he’s “not like us,” which could mean anything. After a rough introduction we learn what that means and if you’ve seen the trailer you know that Mackie’s character is an advanced robot. You don’t see it right away but you eventually see that he actually is more powerful in this movie than his character, Falcon, in the MCU.

Leo tells Harp that they have a mission to deliver a vaccine but that mission quickly turns into something else. Harp spends a good portion of the movie trying to figure out if he can trust Leo but Leo keeps saving him and he knows he needs him for survival at a certain point. Along the way, we find out what Leo is after and Harp has some very tough decisions to make late in the movie.

Outside the wire
OUTSIDE THE WIRE, Damson Idris as Harp, ​Anthony Mackie ​as ​Leo, in OUTSIDE THE WIRE. Cr. ​Jonathan Prime​/NETFLIX ​© ​2020 /

Outside the Wire does a lot of things right. For one, the action. The war scenes are as good as any war scenes you’ll see in a movie today and they even kept the robot soldiers within reason. Their weaponry was powerful but they were able to be taken out. There are multiple firefights, some hand-to-hand combat scenes, a hostage situation, snipers, and explosions. You definitely won’t be bored watching this movie.

Then we get to the message. Outside the Wire is willing to have some of the hard discussions that are never had. America’s drone usage in foreign lands kills civilians on a large scale regularly and we rarely hear about it. We do it in the name of fighting terrorism but to the civilians in these countries, they likely see us as the bigger threat to their survival.

Through Damson Idris’s character Harp, we are seeing someone being woken up to the horrors that the drone policy causes. In the end, Leo challenges him to see things in a new way and wants him to join him in doing what he thinks he has to do to fix it. I don’t like giving spoilers in my reviews but I will say I believe that the decision the writers made was a powerful one, though I wish they had been more clear about why that decision was made.

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Idris and Mackie have great chemistry in this film and I saw a lot of familiar faces throughout. This movie was fun, while also making me think a little and I really couldn’t have asked for much more from it.

If you’re on the fence about Outside the Wire you should watch it. Netflix has another hit.