Film Review: The Wall (2017).

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ – 3/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 90 min. | Director: Doug Liman | Year: 2017.

What an interesting take on war in a small scale situation. We have seen those films where the entire film takes places at one location. A bus, an airplane, a phone booth, a panic room, even being buried in a grave and now even an unstable ramshackle wall. Whenever the title of a film spells out that everything will happen at just one spot. It succeeds to raise an interest amongst film spectators, because we all want to see how such a film will keep us engaged.

The Wall takes place in Iraq. A U.S. sniper and a spotter, army staff sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena) and sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are sent to investigate a pipeline construction site in the middle of the desert where several security guards were shot dead. For 22 hours they wait and survey the site before they finally declare it safe and clear. As they collect the radios from the dead bodies, they are both shot by a hidden Iraqi sniper, Juba (Laith Nakli). While Matthews lies dying on the desert ground, Isaac gets himself to safety which is behind an unstable chest-high wall. He sits on the ground, tends to his wounds and discovers the that radio is damaged and his water bottle has a hole through which most of the water leaked. He is stuck behind the wall and doesn’t know what to do. But he is determined to find a way to either shoot Juba or contact their military base and ask to be rescued.

The Wall was directed by Doug Liman and written by Dwain Worrell. The film was produced by Amazon Studios. I felt that the film tags in with the interferences of western countries in the Middle-East. If you think of all recent terrorist groups, the invasion of Iraq and the desire to exploit oil rich grounds. This film seems to discuss these subjects on a very small scale. Like Worrell said, “What interested me about it was the simple conversation between two people. That could almost be had on a New York City park bench with two guys playing chess. There is that sort of dynamic between the characters in the film.” Thus in essence it brings the conversation much closer to home versus how we see it being discussed on large platforms such as TV, which is distanced from us and so impressive that it could spread fear. But in a one-on-one conversation you could actually understand one another much better. I believe that is somewhat the purpose of this film. There are no good guys and bad guys. There are only misunderstandings, nefarious actions and revenge upon more revenge. And the small middle-man is just told what to do and what to believe. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena and Laith Nakli.

I love how this film basically has three active characters with one that we actually never get to see and the other we see the entire time. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s performance was very authentic. His accent and the emotions that he goes through were believable. The only thing that I would like to emphasize, is that I did not feel that it was very strong, which I purely base on the fact that I believe that a character needs to make me care so much for him or her. I cared to the point that I wanted the main character to get the help he needed to tend to his wounds, but I did not get deeply emotionally involved. I find it commendable that this film made me interested and actually care a little and understand a character (Juba) that I haven’t seen throughout the entire film. The message that a soldier who is out there to protect liberty, but also happens to just be a middle-man who does not fully know what is going on at the place that he believes that he’s protecting, did hit me. There are many veils of secrecy that we do not know off and it seems that the Iraqi sniper Juba is addressing that. This could almost make us believe that he might be fighting for a more just cause.

I find the camerawork genuine and fitting for the film. I haven’t seen anything new or super special. The camera serves as a means to convey the thoughts and emotions that we can read from the main character’s facial expressions. It causes the necessary tension and engagement with the story. The soldier happens to have some kind of range scanner binoculars type of thing which he uses to determine where Juba is hiding. It really helps with the mystery and the tone of the film. You just do not know where he is. It adds to the tension of the main character being stuck behind that wall, because as soon as he moves he could be shot at. So, you’re clueless and frustrated, because you do want the main character to find a way out.

The Wall is ingenious because it uses a unique location and in the sense that it is hard to come up with a story around such a location. Somewhere I do feel that the plot is not engaging enough that it will have you sit on the edge of your seat. Nor do I feel that the suspense is so intense that it could be referred to as one of the greatest thrillers of this year. But I did feel that it has an intriguing back-story. You can either be an oblivious spectator who just watches this film to be entertained or you can be engaged with the political and philosophical levels of this film that can be analyzed through the conversation between the Iraqi sniper and the U.S. soldier.

In Dutch theatres as from the 8th of June 2017.

Genre: Thriller | Language: English | Dutch Distributor: The Searchers.

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