CREDIT: David James/Amazon Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena 

Director: Doug Liman

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Sniper Bullets Whizzing By and the Expletives You Yell When Blood Mixes with Sand

Release Date: May 12, 2017 (Limited)

The Wall feels like the type of movie that should have been released at the end of the George W. Bush era, as the national tide was becoming significantly less supportive of any Middle East military efforts. But considering that the War on Terror and nation-rebuilding operations tend to have no end in sight, the premise is unfortunately evergreen. It is 2007 in Iraq, Bush has declared victory, and the war is supposedly winding down. American soldiers Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Matthews (John Cena) find themselves at the mercy of the deadly Iraqi sniper Juba, with only a makeshift brick wall to serve as protection.

The film mostly consists of a battle of wits between Taylor-Johnson and Juba, who hacks into the Americans’ local radio. Juba is in control of the situation, and he is mostly toying with Isaac until what is almost certainly an inevitable execution, making for essentially the combat version of Phone Booth. Regarding how this plays out as a cinematic thrill ride, there is certainly constant tension, but there is also constant labored breathing from Taylor-Johnson, and that is never the ideal sound mix.

The most universal truths are often best expressed in the most intimate stories, and that micro-macro metonymy is at the forefront of the tightly composed The Wall. Juba somehow knows the most relevant details of Isaac’s story, taunting him about how he just cannot leave a complete mission well enough alone. His personal struggle mirrors his country’s boondoggle. Taylor-Johnson is not the most compelling actor to bring this point across (he excels more in something more depraved like Nocturnal Animals), but a devastating conclusion ensures that The Wall gets its point across. This film is not exactly anti-war, and not even necessarily anti-Iraq War, but rightness or wrongness does not account for much when all you stand for and behind is crumbling around you. 

The Wall is Recommended If You Like: Lone Survivor, Phone Booth, the ending of Night of the Living Dead

Grade: 3 out of 5 Poetic Snipers