365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


The Wall (2017)

First things first, if you think you're going into this seeing a John Cena movie, you will be sorely disappointed. This movie is similar to a move like 127 Hours, Cast Away, I Am Legend, or All Is Lost in the sense that it revolves almost entirely around a single character. The are a couple of major differences though between this one and those just stated. There are no flashback scenes. This movie is done almost entirely in real time. And it occurs in a single location, though 127 Hours, for the most part, does as well. The Wall is similar though in the sense that each of the mentioned movies experiences EXTREME periods of hopelessness during a part or a majority of the movie. The Wall isn't nearly as good as these other movies, but it was unique enough that it held your interest. Whereas 127 Hours was based on a true story, where All Is Lost is easily believable, and where I Am Legend is more of a science fiction movie that we have to suspend our belief for, The Wall falls somewhere in between. I loved that it was just 81 minutes long. It didn't need to be any longer so why drag something out when it doesn't have to be? And the first 20 minutes were completely engrossing. I knew a little bit about the movie, but not enough to know where it was going. But then it took a turn for the weird that took the believability aspect out of it and turned it into a game of cat and mouse that, while entertaining, was not something I'd expect out of my war movies.

Cena (Trainwreck, Daddy's Home) plays Sargeant Matthews and for the first 10-15 minutes, we think he's the man character. We learn in the opening credits that it is 2007 and the War in Iraq is officially over, but the killing has not stopped. There are still plenty of angry Iraqis, some with just reasons and some with not so just ones. We immediately meet Matthews (Cena), a skilled sniper marksman and Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson - Nocturnal Animals, Godzilla), a lookout man. They have been hiding on a small hill, cloaked by trees, tall grass, and other natural terrains. They haven't moved in over 20 hours, each only breaking to sleep while the other looks over an abandoned construction scene where a team of six American contractors has been working on a pipeline. All are dead and, as Matthews points out, they were gunned down by an expert sniper with such precision and quickness that they were each killed by single shots so quickly that there was not enough time for any of them to react. Five head shots and one torso shot to be exact.

Doug Liman (Fair Game, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) takes his best shot at imitating Robert Zemeckis, J.C. Chandor, Francis Lawrence, or Danny Boyle while Taylor-Johnson tries to see if he has the chops to succeed as a singleton on the screen like James Franco, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Robert Redford, and other, more established actors have done in the past. Does it work? Not exactly. At least not when compared to these directors, actors, and their movie. But it doesn't completely fail either. The film just takes a completely different turn than what I would have expected. I went into this movie without seeing a preview and knowing nothing more than the single sentence premise of "a deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them" and the Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 68% fresh. Though the audience score was just 55%, the premise and audience score sold me. Plus, as a not so closet WWE fan, I'll give most anything that stars Cena or Dwayne Johnson a chance. But even the single sentence premise is wrong. Both soldiers never make it to this crumbling wall.

The three-character story really takes form when Matthews convinces Isaac (or Eyes as Matthews likes to call him) that there is no chance that whoever gunned down the pipeline team is still out there after 20 hours. The duo can see just about everything in the vast desert land and they haven't seen movement anywhere in that entire time. Matthews goes down to investigate the casualties. If all checks out, they can call for extraction and go home. But of course, based on the premise, and based that we are just 15 minutes in and all we've established is the setting and the dynamic between the two protagonists, we know things aren't going to go exactly as planned. Matthews is shot multiple times in the back, but no vital organs are struck. Based on what we know about the Iraqi sniper (voiced by Laith Nakli) who we never actually see in this entire movie if it's he who is the one shooting, the missed kill shots were intentional. And, yes, he does have plans with the soldiers that involve more than just killing them (that doesn't really involve torturing them either). Intrigued? Check out the movie.

When Eyes goes to check on his fallen comrade, he becomes fair game too. And the sniper is nothing short of precise with his shots fired, hitting the exact targets that he wants to hit before forcing our hero behind the crumbling brick wall that, at its tallest, is no more than three feet. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this movie isn't shot exactly in real time...but it's pretty close. The movie itself is 81 minutes and I would say that the entire movie covers less than 3-4 hours. During that time, we see Isaac go through quite a bit physically and emotionally, but I don't know if we ever actually care about him or his circumstances and, that we don't, is a combination fail of Liman and Taylor-Johnson. Whereas I remember crying for certain during Cast Away and absolutely balling during the extended cut of 127 Hours and feeling strongly for the circumstances of the lead characters in both I Am Legend and All Is Lost, I didn't care about Eyes at all and while I certainly don't condone the killing of innocent men, this movie is a war movie and the reasons for the protagonists doing their killing are as strong as the reasons for the antagonist doing his (or at least we are able to see that point of view after learning more as the story progresses). Taylor-Johnson seems like he's a pretty good actor, but he's not ready to carry an hour of screen time alone. As he's battling a gruesome gunshot wound in his femur, extreme fatigue, hunger, and thirst, the brutal sun while with no protection from it other than his heavy Army issued suit, witnessing his partner getting gunned down, and having no hope of rescue, he's unable to juggle all of these factors at once. For example, when he's in excruciating pain after getting shot in the leg, he quickly applies the tourniquet and extracts the bullet in less than a minute. In fact, the leg injury doesn't seem to totally hamper him for the rest of the movie. I also honestly felt like I was suffering from thirst more than Eyes was until he was finally able to secure himself some water. In many regards, the planning and execution of the movie as amateur hour.

A movie that this could be compared to is Phone Booth. I'll leave it at that. I had such high hopes for Phone Booth and ended up hating it. I had lesser hopes for this one and thought it was decent. It's not a movie that I'll ever watch again, but it was, mostly, entertaining, albeit not very realistic. But I have noticed I've been thinking about it far more than I thought I would four days after watching it. I don't know if I can recommend it, but I think I've provided references to at least a couple of movies you've seen before. I'm glad I saw it in the theater, but I'm glad I saw it as the first show of the day and only paid $6.50 for it. This is not a movie that would have entertained me at home, at least I don't think. I think I would have tuned out 15 minutes in and not have given it a second thought. It's definitely one that can be better appreciated on the big screen. The cinematography and sound were outstanding. It's one of those movies that has you rely on your own senses almost as much as it does its lead character. A decent popcorn flick, but not everyone is going to enjoy it.

Plot 8/10
Character Development 5/10
Character Chemistry 6/10
Acting 4/10
Screenplay 7.5/10
Directing 6/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 10/10
Hook and Reel 7/10
Universal Relevance 7/10


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