Anthony Mackie is already being addressed as Cap, though not in the film you think. The Marvel actor's latest movie Outside the Wire sees him star as Captain Leo in a military thriller that's out now on Netflix.
Outside the Wire takes place in 2036, during a civil war in Eastern Europe, between Russia and Ukraine. The US are deployed as peacekeepers (lol, sure) but their army has evolved in 15 years to features robot soldiers called Gumps.
With territories falling to terrorist Victor Koval (Game of Thrones' Pilou Asbæk), a drone pilot named Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) is sent into the deadly militarized zone and must work with Captain Leo (Mackie) to locate a doomsday device. The twist? Leo is a robot!
Don't worry, it's not a spoiler – in fact, it's revealed both in the synopsis and in the Netflix promotional card. Would the film have been better if that little morsel of information had been kept secret? Probably.
Idris and Mackie make a good pair in Outside the Wire, playing off each other's suspicions in a surprisingly subtle way given the over-the-top gunfire we're subjected to throughout most of the film (it's so much you may find yourself reaching for the mute button). They do their best with some clunky lines of dialogue, managing to convey genuine concern, anxiety, and fear.
What makes Outside the Wire better than other mid-range military films is it steers clear of any national jingoism. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are framed overwhelmingly as good or bad (though the film does lean towards empathising with Ukrainians who have been made homeless by the violent conflict).
It is this ambivalence that plays against Thomas' coolness, his belief in doing what's best for the "greater good". His firmness in this – not shaped by pride or flag-waving but rather earnestness, a good character choice – begins to unravel as he gets his 'boots on the ground' and is led further into the conflict, seeing its nuance.
Where the Outside the Wire is let down most is by its story. In an attempt to fit the backstory of the civil war, the ethics of drone warfare, the ethics of AI, racism and the individual reckonings with all of these, the plot becomes convoluted and confused.
Given Captain Leo is a robot, he's meant to be a much more advanced soldier and therefore the cinematography has a lot of work to do to show us this. Unfortunately, it reads like they've sped up Mackie's combat and... that's it.
There's no special or distinct choreography which would make it more impressive and less gimmicky. As the film is about war, it relies a lot on, well, guns but unfortunately this too becomes a bit rote after a while, and aurally monotonous.
Outside the Wire also suffers from some pacing issues, likely due to the nature of the plot. Things happen fast, and then there's a lot of time spent waiting and perseverating and if you're not invested in the characters (which, despite Idris' and Mackie's performances, there's a 50/50 chance you're not) your mind will begin to wander.
Could Outside the Wire have benefited from a cleaner story and a tighter runtime? Yes. Does it suffer dramatically as is? No, not really. There's enough tension between Thomas and Captain Leo to keep you from switching it off, and once each characters' true motivations are revealed, you'll find yourself more engaged than not in the story's outcome.
Outside the Wire is available to watch now on Netflix.
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