Outside the Wire imagines a world in 2036 where human troops on both sides are assisted by robotic soldiers and drone pilots.
No, the film is not set in Baltimore. It is clear to me that nobody is bothering to heed the warnings of the great machine uprising given to us in The Terminator films. Next thing you know, some genius will attempt to open a theme park with dinosaurs. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Humans aren’t going to touch the murder hornets that try to bring about our extinction. Okay, I digress.
Here’s what you need to know: America is serving as a peacekeeping force in 2036. The initial script pre-dates the Trump administration so I don’t know if there were any rewrites. But again, it does draw upon those 1980s films in which robots/machines are presented in human form.
Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris) is a drone pilot and he finds himself in quite the predicament after violating orders. The Army sends him to an outpost after he disobeys direct orders. It is here where he finds himself under the supervision of commanding officer Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie). Captain Leo may be an android but the humanoid is given many human qualities including emotion. Anyway, Leo’s main task is to locate a nuclear weapons before it gets into Viktor Koval’s (Pilou Asbæk) hands.
Being out in the battlefield is a whole new world for Harp. His drone piloting experience also becomes useless out in the field. Harp’s world changes when he learns that Leo is a humanoid. You know, we can look at him as a super soldier. Mackie approaches the role in a way that blends the best of both worlds. It’s ironic in a way because Anthony Mackie is also the new Captain America following Avengers: Endgame.
The humanoids are preceded by military robots known as Gumps. Captain Leo is in the next generation. To no surprise, it takes a few tries before finding the best design. Most recently, we saw this in The Mandalorian with the Dark Troopers. It took a few tries–the first included humans–before getting it right. To the film’s credit, the design does not take us out of the film. While there are certainly some sci-fi aspects in Outside the Wire, they don’t seek to go too far. In fact, most of the film is based on current technology so there’s no need to start asking why something has yet to happen come 2036!
I’m not going to lie. Outside the Wire really isn’t the kind of film I find myself wanting to watch this early in 2021. It is violent so it probably isn’t the best choice if you need a movie distraction. Granted, it’s been tough to watch anything of late that is not the news. In most years, this is the typical film that any studio would dump into the month of January. Of course, this is also not a typical year for movies. The pandemic changed the rules to say the least.
But in spite of this, Outside the Wire does explore aspects that we don’t really get to see in war movies. One one hand, you have two leads that are Black. But on the other hand, this film also forces us to take a look at things through another person’s perspective. If you put person A in person B’s environment, how will they change in adjusting to their new environment?
Outside the Wire borrows from many favorite 1980s action films but it also isn’t a stretch to say that Anthony Mackie is the Black Terminator.
DIRECTOR: Mikael Håfström
SCREENWRITERS: Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale
CAST: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Enzo Cilenti, Emily Beecham, with Pilou Asbæk and Michael Kelly