If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching The Bourne Identity, Mr & Mrs Smith, Jumper, or Edge of Tomorrow; then you will know the magic that each film brings due to it's exceptional action content. Director behind each successful film, Doug Liman, certainly has an eye for the art of action and suspense; so will his new 2017 war film The Wall, explaining the story soldiers post the end of the 2007 Iraq War; bring the same impact as his previous films, or will the plot and content be a war in itself?
For starters, the war thriller film is set in late 2007, just as the Iraq War winds down and is declared to the world as officially over. During the war’s dying days, US Army team consisting of two sergeants; the first being Staff Sgt Shane Matthews (John Cena), and Matthews’ spotter and fellow sergeant, Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The two receive a distress call in the desert of postwar Iraq but are suddenly faced with immense danger when both soldiers become fatally injured by gunshots from their enemy. It’s from here that Isaac is faced with heavy adversity after the unseen enemy shoots open fire, as they’re one man down and are lacking an abundance of survival supplies; along with no means to radio back to the army base.
Watching this film, it’s inevitable to feel a great sense of sympathy towards Taylor- Johnson’s character, seeing as he’s suddenly forced into survival mode for not only himself, but also his fellow sgt Matthews; which is of course unavoidable in war, but it does provoke a deeper insight into the harsh reality that war throws to oneself. What I did appreciate about this film was how Isaac wasn’t placed into the category of naivety and inferiority, but rather placed into the section of bravery; which makes you acknowledge his presence a lot better as opposed to if he were completely oblivious to his surroundings.
Throughout the film, we aren’t able to see much of what happens on ‘the other side,’ as Isaac is refined behind a ruined nominal structure/ wall, concealing himself from the opposing Iraqi shooters. Nor are we able to see Iraqi sniper himself, Juba (voiced by Laith Nakli). Juba’s continuous sending of verbal subliminal messages, in the form of quoting poems of Robert Frost, or literal taunting; does create an aura of suspense within the audience seeing as all we are aware of is this small confined space (the titular structure). The claustrophobic tone that is being projected can evoke feelings of obscurity, uncertainty, but most of all an intensifying fear of the unknown.
The minor visual details consisting of an unforeseen gust of wind, the slight movement of a lolly wrapper, and the specific angle of the sun upon the sergeant certainly plays a small, but significant role in that Liman encapsulates the audience into a realm of suspense and utter chaos; but it is those small moments that we can acknowledge the small gifts in life. If I had to critique one part of the film, it would be the over-emphasis on dialogue as opposed to the enthralling action that Liman is well-known and respected for. Perhaps he wanted us to build somewhat of a rapport between the characters in a more sentimental, yet profound manner. However, another war film released a few months back, Nolan’s Dunkirk does exceptionally well in delivering an empowering message despite the lack of dialogue in the film.
Nonetheless, this film can be appreciated with it’s short, spontaneous and sharp shots, along with it’s content. The galling ending is definitely worth waiting for as well.