Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Dwain Worrell
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli
So I watched ‘The Wall’ last night and was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. I wasn’t overly familiar with Doug Liman beforehand, but I discovered shortly afterwards that he directed the Edge of Tomorrow and played a big role in the Bourne franchise. I enjoyed the former and loved the original Bourne trilogy. This new film doesn’t really share much with either of those however. It’s more of a psychological thriller that features the acting chops of Aaron Taylor-Johnson. That alone would have me interested anyway, because I think that guy is gold and he doesn’t disappoint.
It’s a fairly short film, coming in at a mere 88 minutes, but believe me when I say that each and every second is utilised. Well, maybe that’s a small lie. Each and every second beyond the opening five minutes is fully utilised. It’s a fairly simple story in truth. Two U.S. soldiers are sent on a scouting mission to check for an enemy sniper that’s terrorised and killed contractors working within an isolated, desert area in Iraq. There’s Alan “Ize” Isaac (Taylor-Johnson) and Shane Matthews (John Cena). The former is more of a recon man, surveying the area for potential hiding spots where a marksman might be bunkered in whilst the latter is a more gung ho sniper himself. Matthews soon becomes bored at their tedious waiting game, perched on a hill and makes the foolish decision to stroll down for a closer look.
This is the spark for what’s to come, the moment the shit hits the fan, if you like, and after this point I never once took my eye of the screen. It engrossed me in a way that genuinely surprised me.
Matthews, who at first finds nothing too alarming, excluding the plethora of strewn corpses of course, is soon under fire from the elusive marksman, taking a hit to the abdomen for his troubles and sending Isaac on an ill fated rescue mission of his own to try and retrieve his stricken comrade. All he succeeds in doing though is taking multiple shots himself; including one to his water bottle, radio antenna and, more seriously, to his knee. He dives behind a dinky, little wall that’s practically (and literally at some points) falling apart and then almost immediately sets out to try and stem the blood loss before even attempting to formulate a plan. John Cena of WWE fame clearly wasn’t trusted with a more meatier role here and had to settle for a screen filler with minor dialogue parts. I say this because apart from the opening scene I mentioned before he does nothing of much importance. *Spoiler alert* He lies down in the dirt for a large part.
The Wall is most definitely an Aaron Taylor-Johnson movie. I mean, yeah, I’m stating the obvious there because he’s in the damn thing, but it’s HIS film and he’s the clear star of the show from a billing and performance perspective.
It would almost be a one man band effort too but for Juba (Laith Nakli), the sniper, who is ever present albeit constantly off screen and only interjecting at key intervals to verbally harass and torture the increasingly forlorn and despairing figure of Isaac. Incidentally, the two play off each other fantastically well. Their verbal game of cat and mouse throughout serves to increase the tension, whilst effectively giving an insight into both men’s personality and motivations for being where they are at that moment. A good example being when we discover the pent up anguish Isaac has surrounding an unfortunate incident with his friend and even the humanising story Juba tells of being a teacher and witnessing his school being hit with a bomb. This built a backstory, creating an emotional connection to the character and ultimately had me rooting for him to succeed.
Which brings me nicely and briefly onto the ending. Damn that twist was glorious, although slightly predictable, but my jaw still dropped nonetheless.
This is an easy one for me to recommend really. It’s a relatively short, little film with an engaging, if not simple story and a brilliant performance from both Taylor-Johnson and Nakli. The former was outstanding in Nocturnal Animals (the last film I watched of his) and has been outstanding in the vast majority of films I’ve seen him in, so that’s perhaps not too surprising. It’s not even close to being the best I’ve seen this year, but it’s decent enough.