The Wall (R13)
81 mins ★★★ A kind of Phone Booth-meets-Enemy Mine by way of The Hurt Locker, Doug Liman’s single-location drama is notable mainly for a fine acting performance and impressive evocation of space and place.
It’s 2007 and while President George W Bush has declared victory in the Iraq War, the hostilities aren’t quite over for US Army staff sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena) and Sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
Charged with determining whether the area surrounding a key oil pipeline is secure, the pair have spent the past 22 hours surveying the scene of eight fatalities without seemingly spotting any sign of movement. However, as soon as they decide to move in, Matthews takes a potentially fatal shot to the torso, while Isaac escapes behind a crumbling wall to nurse a nasty-looking leg wound. When his radio suddenly crackles into life, Isaac thinks help might be on his way. But to his horror, he quickly discovers the voice on the other end of the radio is not who he might have expected.
Director Liman does a great job of both ratcheting up tension and bringing to life the heat and grime of the Iraqi desert. A visceral watch boosted by some clever use of sound and vision, The Wall also provides a showcase for the increasingly impressive Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals, Kick-Ass). In virtually every frame of the 81-minute running time, he delivers an emotionally charged performance as he deals with an unseen foe intent on quoting Edgar Allan Poe and debating who the real terrorists are.
But, in the end, that’s also where The Wall‘s tightly-focused narrative begins to crumble as our disembodied voice becomes more and more like a horror villain, culminating in a denouement straight out of countless slasher flicks. A disappointing end to an intriguing premise. – James Croot
The Wall’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena display courage under fire.