Doug Liman’s compact and tense two-hander might be a war movie but it more properly belongs in the cat-and-mouse thriller sub-genre alongside Phone Booth and Buried.
It’s 2007 and the war in Iraq is winding down, but there are still casualties, as Army ranger Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Sergeant Matthews (John Cena) discover after a lengthy stakeout at a pipeline construction site littered with headshot corpses.
They have barely broken cover when an unseen marksman targets them from a nearby pile of rubble, and a crumbling stone wall becomes the only refuge from this would-be assassin’s bullets. With Cena lying wounded beyond the wall, Taylor-Johnson scurries for cover and requests immediate evac. But it quickly becomes apparent that the voice on the other end of the radio is their adversary, who may be the notorious Iraqi sniper known as Juba.
Either way, he’s a well-educated foe, taunting the trapped Isaac with quotes from Poe and mind games. It’s here that credibility becomes a bit stretched with the enemy as confessor, who forces Isaac to confront some harsh truths about his wartime service. He even uses the hoary old “We’re not so different you and I” line, which is rarely heard in movies these days and for good reason.
Nevertheless, The Wall is an effective and economical exercise in suspense; a war of words that Taylor-Johnson fights with dust and grime-streaked desperation, steely resolve, and a barrage of expletives.
In cinemas: August 10, 2017
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena
Directed by: Doug Liman