Review: The Wall

Amazon Studios has done a really good job with producing films that deal with real life issues, storylines and consequences.  For example, Manchester by the Sea, which was rightfully nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this past year, dealt with the issue of a man having to grow up fast, clean himself up and raise his nephew in the absence of his brother, who had passed away.  That story line hit home for a lot of people out there who have raised a child who wasn’t theirs because it was the right thing to do – whether it be for the purpose of getting the child or children out of a traumatic home base due to drugs, alcohol, abuse or just absence of a parent from death.  Manchester by the Sea was so successful because above all else, it was real and it was relatable, in some way or another, to everyone.

The latest film produced for the big screen by Amazon is no different – it too is very real.  In fact, I may argue it is too real.  The Wall tells a scary story of, sadly, a realistic situation in Iraq during the War on Terror back in 2007 – a war we still are fighting today.  Unlike some war films of the past, this movie does not glorify a soldier’s life at all.  It would be easy to cast John Cena, one of the biggest names in the WWE at the moment (and one of the biggest men on Earth), to play the cocky soldier hero who will save his partner and the world from an enemy.  To the credit of Cena though, and director Doug Liman, The Wall actually shows us the true vulnerability of soldiers, and the fear of the unknown on an unmarked battlefield with no boundaries, both literally and morally.

The film is about two American soldiers, Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Matthews (Cena) caught out in the open of the Iraqi desert in what appears to be the scene of a completed ambush.  The two soldiers have been on a stakeout, hidden in camouflage for almost a full day with no sign of the enemy believed to be hiding behind a decrepit brick wall.  As Mathews is ready to give up and approach the camp, his intuition tells him something isn’t right.  Unfortunately for him he’s right, and he is shot from a long distance by a sniper.  Now, Isaac, alone in a foreign land with a wounded partner and friend, must find a way to save Mathews and serve a cold dish of revenge to the hostile shooter.

Obviously, as mentioned above, the War on Terror is still ongoing globally.  So once again, Amazon has found a way to make a movie that is drawing in the audience to a current, real situation.

Honestly, if I was a veteran of any war, especially the current one, I would have a hard time watching this movie.  Like the real-life war we still are in the midst of, this movie features an extremely skilled and dangerous enemy without a face.  It focuses around a relentless adversary who can’t be bought, bribed or negotiated with and has no true endgame other than causing death.  I will say, though, that it reiterated my appreciation for those who have lived this life and fought on that desert – our troops.

Since I never served in the military, I watched the film as I would any other war movie.  I watched The Wall with appreciation for the soldiers the actors are portraying, but also with my critic eyes ready to judge.  I came to the conclusion that I appreciated The Wall.  It is 90 minutes of pure suspense that provokes pure fear.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson was fantastic in this movie.  With this performance, and his previous role in Nocturnal Animals that earned him a Golden Globe, he is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  He made me forget I was watching a fictitious movie with actors at times. His portrayal of a soldier struggling for survival was so real and tugs at your heart.

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John Cena’s catch phrase in WWE is “You Can’t See Me!” He wishes that were the case for the Iraqi sniper in The Wall.  

John Cena did a great job as well in his supporting role.  I really believe Cena is a good actor.  He isn’t just a wrestler meathead thrown into a Hollywood blockbuster who can’t play dead in a western (my all-time favorite phrase to describe an awful actor, by the way) just to make himself and the production company millions of dollars.  He often steals the scenes in movies he is featured, and he was definitely believable in this co-starring role.  I also give him credit for taking a role in a film that didn’t have the biggest budget and won’t be seen in the most theaters.

Making a movie like The Wall means you simply want to be a part of a film that has a genuine impact, because that’s the most important thing to you.

I know this may be a little controversial, but I couldn’t help but feel like The Wall is everything that The Hurt Locker was not.  I’ve always felt like The Hurt Locker is one of the most overrated Oscar-winning films ever.  I was more fulfilled after watching The Wall than I was with The Hurt Locker, and I also even felt it was more impactful overall.  Some people swear by The Hurt Locker, while I just find myself swearing at it.

This one was different, though.  The Wall was successful at being a heart-gripping thrill ride.  It had the dusty, war-time atmosphere of The Hurt Locker, mixed partially with concepts from Open Water and Buried.  In my estimation, though, it was a better movie than all three.