'Outside the Wire' Is a Good Movie to Half-Watch While Scrolling on Your Phone

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Starring Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Pilou Asbæk

Photo: Jonathan Prime​ / Netflix

BY Nicholas SokicPublished Jan 13, 2021

Netflix recently unveiled a star-studded trailer for its 2021 slate, featuring 71 new movies for the platform. One of these movies is Outside the Wire, set in 2036 with a drone pilot teaming up with an advanced military android to stop a nuclear apocalypse. If it's any indication of Netflix's upcoming titles, we can expect most of them to be perfectly serviceable content. That's to say, don't worry about spending too much time on your phone with this one.

Damson Idris' drone pilot Thomas Harp is given just enough characterization to seem like a decent man — you know he's got a girlfriend back home because you see her picture twice — but Anthony Mackie's android Leo is the one who gets all the badass lines and showiest action scenes. Michael Kelly and Game of Thrones' Pilou Asbæk also show up in small roles as a military officer and a terrorist, respectively.

Mikael Håfström's direction never veers from competent here. The action scenes aren't extraordinary, but neither are they as over-edited as many modern blockbusters. The movie, set in Ukraine (really Budapest), doles out heaps of exposition from the first frame to get to where it needs to go. Most of the time though, they're just talking about stopping the bad guys.

The film's base-level competence also applies to the special effects, which are mostly given over to the drone soldiers known as Gumps.

There are also some weird, half-baked ethics on drones and their use in war, but the movie never really follows through on this, preoccupied as it is with stopping bad dudes.

Maybe audiences can find something more thoughtful in the 70 other Netflix productions they have to look forward to. This is the sort of movie that opens with a text reading "A violent civil war has erupted in Eastern Europe," which is the exact sort of excuse viewers might need to not think about this too hard. Outside the Wire accomplishes what it sets out to do: having you kill two hours and think, "Hmm, fine."

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