THE WALL Review: 7 out of 10 (New Focus on a War Film)
THE WALL is a very unconventional war film directed by Doug Liman and written by Dwain Worrell. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena as a U.S. Army sniper and his spotter who become trapped by an Iraqi sniper themselves.
The film takes place in 2007 after Bush has declared victory in Iraq and the war is winding down. Sergeant Issac (Taylor-Johnson) and Staff Sergeant Matthews (Cena) are sent out to conduct a counter sniper mission when some oil pipeline contractors are killed. Arriving in the middle of the desert, the pair patiently waits 22 hours on overwatch before determining that the site is clear. It is after they decide to go to the kill zone that things are not at all what they seem. Pinned down by an Iraqi sniper and unable to determine his whereabouts, Issac is forced to deal with the mystery assailant by communication and a stolen radio that the sniper has procured.
THE WALL is a very lean movie that works in a running time of 81 minutes, but probably wouldn't (or couldn't) with any more time or subplots. Though the idea of two enemies in a verbal game of one-upmanship isn't really new, this film does consider the politics of war and even questions some of the reasoning of it. After all, the film's setting is next to an oil pipeline. Aaron Taylor-Johnson turns in a solid one man performance here (John Cena is fairly absent from the film. Cena himself could even argue "You Can't See Me."), and that is key since the camera spends most of its time on him throughout. Although some of the setups of resources, radios, and cover are a little contrived, the movie leans into this fairly well. Over the course of the film, the plot reveals bring everything into focus.
With just enough chaos, intensity, and gruesome stakes, THE WALL sort of exists as a sort of response to AMERICAN SNIPER. Instead of glorifying the slayer, it questions the slaying itself. The one-on-one mental and physical battle brings just enough drama and suspense to merit the brief running time of the film. Though some may not like where this film ends up, I appreciated the ideas here.