Outside the Wire, by Albert W. Vogt III

Technically what will follow is a fan request. It is not on any of The Legionnaire‘s social media lists, but I watched Outside the Wire last night. I have another endeavor that I hope to start up soon, also regarding film, with another friend. Stay tuned for more details. He had requested that I see this new Netflix title so that we can talk about it. All I can say (of course I will say more) is . . . yikes.

Who is not down for a futuristic war movie? That is what Outside the Wire attempts anyway. It is difficult to tell. The opening crawl proclaims it to be 2036. There is something about a civil war in Eastern Europe and robot warriors called “Gumps” (yes, I immediately made a Forrest Gump joke). The United States military (or just the Marines, it was not clear) is on hand to perform its new tradition of attempting to keep the peace. Okay, so with the year and automated troops, you might think we are in for some imaginative technology. You would be wrong. It seems like fifteen years from now it will be a year or two from now. The weaponry does not look different. And there are drones that are no different from what we see today. One of these is piloted by Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris). He is safe on a base in the United States while his vehicle surveys a battle taking place in the Ukraine. Seeing a potentially hostile vehicle approach a group of Marines in combat, he disobeys an order not to fire on it when he sees a rocket launcher protrude from it. His actions results in two dead Marines, but thirty-eight others are saved. Instead of subjecting Harp to a court martial, they send him to the Ukraine in order to get a taste of real combat. You know, because that is what the military does: it punishes you by putting you purposely into a situation where you might be killed. Once he arrives in Eastern Europe, he is assigned to Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie). Leo is not human, but rather an android with a synthetic torso that mimics human flesh. He looks like the rest of us, but he is basically a more advanced Gump. The military also seemingly lets Leo do whatever he wants, though he has been tasked with bringing vaccines to combat a cholera outbreak amongst those displaced by the war. This is why he needs Harp. . . ? I honestly have no clue, even after seeing the whole thing. Leo says something about needing someone who can think “outside of the box.” Yet, despite not following a command once, Harp spends the rest of the movie trying to get Leo to follow a standard military way of doing things. Harp is also virtually useless. After delivering the vaccines, Leo decides that they are going to go after the leader of the rebels, a Ukrainian that wants his country to reunite with Russia named Viktor Koval (Pilou Asbæk). They are aided along the way by the leader of the resistance (because you always have to have a resistance) named Sofiya (Emily Beecham), who sounds very British. Now we are introduced to some new plot involving nuclear missile silos and launch codes. During the Cold War, those codes were put into bank vault (huh?) and Victor’s men lead an assault on it. Harp and Leo show up to stop them, but on the way Leo cons . . . er, I mean, convinces Harp to remove something from his torso that he calls a tracking device. It turns out to be some kind of behavioral inhibitor chip. Think Data from Star Trek. While Harp cowers outside doing a poor job of getting bank employees to safety, Leo goes in and retrieves the codes for himself. Leo then ditches Harp and makes his way to one of the nuclear missile sites. Leo has apparently decided that humans are the problem. So, who does the United States military send in to stop the seemingly indestructible Leo? Why, who else but Mr. I-don’t-want-to-be-here-but-I-going-to-complain-about-everything Harp, of course. They give him a gun with incendiary bullets and what looks like a 2010 Chevy Malibu (so futuristic is this movie) and say, “Go get ’em, tiger.” Alright, they do not actually say that, but you get the gist. Anyway, Harp manages to grow a spine and take down Leo before the missiles are fired, aided by a drone strike as well. He then walks away and the film ends.

Outside the Wire has a sort of Heart of Darkness feel to it. If that does not seem familiar to you, then maybe Apocalypse Now (1979) might ring a bell? Anyway, fresh faced dude travels to a remote place and sees the brutal reality of the other side of life. For some, whether it is Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in Apocalypse Now or Leo in Outside the Wire, confronting these situations changes them. It drives them to inhuman acts, though it helps that Leo is an android. Still, what Leo attempts to do reminds us that any act involving the purposeful loss of life, be it as extreme as launching a nuclear missile strike or killing two people to save thirty-eight like Harp, is tough. As I said in my review of Supernova, the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance is not restricted to being against abortion. It gets a little tricky, though. The Church never condones warfare. Of course, there are the Crusades to consider. If it were possible to ignore the terrible slaughter that took place supposedly in the name of God, at base they were an attempt to regain access to the Holy Land that was temporarily cut off by the rise of militant Islam. Things have calmed down since then, thankfully. Speaking of the Crusades and taking extraordinary measures to end violence, in 1219 St. Francis of Assisi traveled to Syria to meet with the Sultan of Egypt to make peace and end the bloodshed. Picture the scene for a moment: St. Francis of Assisi, clad simply in a rough robe and carrying with him virtually nothing else, and the sultan and all his opulence. This is a far cry from the killer cyborg Leo trying to end hostilities by blowing up half of the world. One can refer to each plan as madness, but at least one did not involve indiscriminate destruction.

Outside the Wire clearly borrows from a bunch of other movies, but does none of it well. The action sequences are okay, and it does not have a ton of gore. There is a little bit of swearing in it too. Also, they make a big deal out of these Gumps at the outset, and then they are barely in the film. They are basically a fancy weapon and little else. Basically, if you have seen films like Terminator or Apocalypse Now, and you imagine some strange combination of the two, then you have seen this movie. It is on Netflix, so if you need to put something on to distract you occasionally while you sort your sock drawer, then make sure to get the kids in bed and get to sorting. I do not recommend making an appointment solely to watch it.

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