Outside the Wire: War Is Still Hell with Robots – Netflix Review

Anthony Mackie stars in a film about future war.


In 2036, the US is involved in a war between pro-Russia rebels and the Ukrainian rebels. During an operation, drone pilot Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) defies orders and deploys a missile against enemy launchers which kills 2 young marines, but arguably saving almost forty more. As a punishment, Harp is sent to serve on the ground alongside Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie) in order to learn what it’s like to be a regular soldier. Leo reveals himself to be an experimental android pretending to be human and that he is working on an operation to prevent terrorist Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk) from gaining nuclear weapons. However, it turns out that Leo may be playing his own game, and that it may be more dire than Harp could possibly be prepared for.

He’s not a tall robot.


Someone described this movie as “great if you ignore the plot.” That’s not an inaccurate statement. The action sequences in this film are great and most of the performances are solid, but the plot is, at best, a mess. The biggest problem is that you may never be 100% sure what Leo’s motivation is at any point. I think the movie means this to be a sign that it’s trying to be sophisticated and suggest that his motives as a machine are alien to human thought, but the reality is that his motivations are often pointless or counterintuitive. While Mackie does the best with trying to sell everything he’s saying, several times I had to wonder if even he understood what the hell was happening. 

At least his design is pretty cool.

Idris and Mackie work really well together in the film, which helps since they have so much screen time. Idris constantly seems to be playing his character as confused by Leo’s actions, which works both because Leo never acts like he’s a robot and also because Leo constantly does things that directly counter his seeming programming. Their interplay is often tense, but it manages to keep the film’s steam going between the action sequences. The action scenes in this film are, at least, very good. Mackie has a lot of experience in doing high-intensity fights and that pays off. The scenes regularly include rudimentary combat robots (humorously called “gumps”) and make good use of Anthony Mackie’s supposedly inhuman abilities to add some variety.

From left to right: Shrimp salad, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, and shrimp scampi.

Overall, it’s not a great movie, but if you have other stuff to do and just want some action scenes in the background, then it’s fine.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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