Underwhelming Construction: Our Review of ‘The Wall’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 11, 2017
Underwhelming Construction: Our Review of ‘The Wall’

Even in its purest and simplest of forms, war is still unspeakably horrible…

In The Wall we see conflict boiled down to the ultimate peak of simplicity, man versus man and it manages to make for a halfway decent little thriller that is held together by some pretty solid performances until it veers into some weird social statement type of territory.

It’s a standard patrol towards the end of the Iraqi war where two soldiers (Aaron Taylor Johnson & John Cena) are investigating an ambush at an oil piping station when they become pinned down by a rogue Iraqi sniper.  Soon this fight becomes more and more about will and intelligence as it is about the man with the better aim.

Condensed into a savage yet simple punch to the gut, The Wall works as an intense little piece of psychological horror and social commentary but a weak script ends up sending this narrative into some occasionally messy territory.

Director Doug Liman certainly has a healthy amount of skill at telling a story and creating tension where necessary and at least from a visual standpoint he does exactly that as the action puts us in a very desolate setting that only serves to crank up the intensity.  He leans on it all quite well inching us forward in the narrative making us all increasingly tense at what is unfolding in front of us, but the character is lacking.  This may be one man’s struggle against another, but other than the social and political issues that are right on the service, we don’t get a hell of a lot of depth.  The script from writer Dwain Worrell actually has flashes of brilliance but more often than not it ends up playing the scenario a little more broadly then it probably should have.  It’s raw drama but the character behind it was pretty minimal and that takes away from the entire experience despite both actors selling it all pretty damn hard.

Aaron Taylor Johnson is solid as Isaac and milks the material as best as he can but the meat isn’t there.  We buy into his peril, but as he talks to his enemy taking shots at him from the other side of this flimsy wall that he is using as cover, it all just plays too political trying to make a social statement about how no one truly wins at war especially when it’s under pretenses that are less than honest or even ideal and no matter how hard Johnson tries he can’t really get it above that.  John Cena is fine essentially playing the dramatic straight man to Johnson as he has to carry the entire film while the voice of Laith Nakli as the sniper on the other side of the conflict ranges from menacing to sympathetic to downright maniacal in an ending to this film that feels like it has been pulled straight from a horror flick.

Ultimately, The Wall is an interesting little experiment that allows a name director to try something different on a budget.  It works for what it is, but it’s also not something that’s going to tip any cinematic or box office scales any time soon.

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David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.