Star – John Cena
Genre – War
Run Time – 1 hr 28 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Awards – 1 Nomination
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So ‘The Wall’, a film by Doug Liman, the man who bought us the impressive adult comedy ‘Swingers’ way back in 1999 when Vince Vaughan made decent movies and then went into the action genre with the quite brilliant Bourne Identity (2002). He went quiet for a bit with some mediocre stuff but resurrected his career by getting involved with box-office king Tom Cruise in the enjoyable Sci-Fi time flipper Edge of Tomorrow and then the drug trafficking biopic American Made (2017). He generally doesn’t do a boring film though. Well not until The Wall, one in a long line of post Iraq War apology films.
Two US army snipers are dug in at a vantage point where an Iraqi sniper has taken out some US Contractors at a crucial oil pipeline link deep in the Iraqi desert. They have been sent to seek him or her out and destroy, bodies littering the site and being picked at by birds. Sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor Johnson) is the spotter and Staff Sergeant Shane Mathews currently sweeping the site with his cross-hairs, both buried in the scrub.
After a while the more macho Mathews decides the sniper has moved on and goes down to the scene to check it out. Bad idea as a high caliber bullet whistles in and taking out his hip with a crack. Isaac panics and rushes to his aid, also getting hit on the leg, managing to scramble for safety behind a stone wall but leaving his buddy writhing in pain out in the open as a second bullet thuds into him. The shooter clearly didn’t shoot to kill and has an agenda.
With the main radio down to call for backup he can only communicate with his buddy. But our Iraqi sniper is smart, soon tapping into the soldier’s frequency and taunting them over that radio, calling himself ‘Juba’ (Naith Lakli). He clearly wants to remind the US of their arrogance and stupidity of waging war in Iraq and this, their purgatory, before he kills them. The near fatally wounded Mathews and more alert Isaac’s has to somehow workout where the shooter is and how to beat him.
I was expecting a lot of this. With its high Rottentomatoes.com rating and classy director it looked a winner. I wrongfully ignored the low rating on IMDB. This is very much the critic’s idea of a taught war movie but not ours though. With revered US Rangers sniper Nicholas Irving (The Reaper) on board as consultant it still had the early appeal of a realistic and thrilling war film. Well it was not to be and once the set up is established it gets all a bit macho war film stuff and loses its interesting edge. American Sniper with Bradley Cooper is way better. This has been done a lot better in a lot of other movies and quickly becomes cliché and unrealistic.
It was a noted film as it was the first ever script the new Amazon Movies company had purchased and moved to production for its streaming service. It cost just $3 million for the world’s richest company to make but did just $4 million back, a reflection of the slow move of film fans from cinema and DVD to the less traditional streaming style delivery of Netflix and Now TV. Bt today in 2018 streaming is the only way to see our movies at home.
So why did the critics opinion not match the punters? Well I think it was the rather feeble and predictable left wing edge to the script that moved it away from an alpha male mano- on-mano we wanted and into the critics sphere of approval on how they see where war films should be. We know the Iraq War was bullsh*t and we have moved on from that so subtle war films pointing that out are dull now. Three Kings got that covered way back in 1999. The American soldiers are shown as macho unthinking boneheads against the wily Muslim enemy and the only interest is how the standoff will end. It’s just disappointing as the taught psychological war film it was pitched as. You are actually rooting for the unseen Iraqi by the end to just shoot the bloody Americans and get this over with.
Imdb.com – 6.2/10.0 (18,254votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 66 critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval