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The Wall – Movie Review

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The Wall – Movie Review

Rating: C+ (Above Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

There’s something admirable about a filmmaker creating a nice little side project in between bigger productions, just to let loose and create a different film. Doug Liman does that with The Wall, being released between two big studio collaborations with Tom Cruise. The experiment isn’t entirely successful as the story doesn’t quite lend itself to The Wall’s surprisingly miniscule runtime. There are occasional moments where one drifts in and out and the film resorts to a bothersome trick that instantly docks points from it. Yet there is a technical craftsmanship to this small production and it’s easy to see how much Liman appreciates lead actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s thespian abilities.

The Wall tricks the audience early on into thinking it’s a buddy picture and does the unthinkable by taking John Cena out of the film in the first act, leading Taylor-Johnson to fend for himself. They have a humourous banter in the opening scenes and screenwriter Dwain Worrell showcases the clear camaraderie between these two sergeants. Taylor-Johnson more than handles the task of being alone through most of the film with only a hidden sniper to converse with. It’s a tough role, especially with how underwritten Sergeant Isaac is, but he carries the film well enough. The main issue is him and his unseen adversary don’t share particularly interesting conversations.

The film is at its most involving when Isaac improvises with the limited material around him to create potential solutions to the situation he’s stuck in. However, much of the screen time is devoted to him sitting and speaking into his walkie-talkie. The dialogue is hardly the most riveting or enticing and what we find out is not enough to strengthen the characters on either side of the titular wall. It becomes easy to zone in and out even during the film’s lean length. Liman and Worrell don’t create enough excitement and tension to make us care about what’s going on. The opening titles make it seem like The Wall will delve into the politics of the Iraq War, but it barely scratches the surface.

It starts to pick up in the third act as Isaac puts all of his resources together and there are some genuine attempts to create suspense. Then The Wall commits one of the biggest cinematic sins by unnecessarily cutting to black in what is clearly near the end, before continuing on. It’s a trick pulled by filmmakers that has to stop, because the audience is left to believe they are given a satisfactory ending that marks the finish of a character’s journey. Usually, the last scene before the fake fadeout is stronger than the actual last scene. The Wall continues that frustrating tradition. A film should only cut to black in the final stretch when it truly is the end of the story.

One can see the appeal of making The Wall as a side project. It’s a simply directed film with a tiny cast and a reasonably affordable location. However, the script meanders as it attempts to stretch the thin story into what is considered a feature length runtime. Both Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena deliver solid performances, but they can only do so much to capture the viewer’s interest. These sorts of single location films need strong dialogue, tense action or both. The Wall has neither, which is a shame, because the potential is certainly there on the screen. The execution just never becomes exciting enough.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison