The Wall (R13)

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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