Movie Review: Backs to The Wall
There's a very pre-blockbuster 70s ethos to this, a time when films weren't formulaic - and it is thanks in part to Internet shopping.
Distributed by Amazon, big league director Doug Liman (the Bourne movies, Mr & Mrs Smith) has turned around this low-key effort for just US$3 million (S$4.2 million). It is bold. Single location, pretty much a one-man show.
But you can't get more honest a title than The Wall. It has close to 99 per cent of the screen time.
After a conversation that tries to break the record for F-bombs, United States Army Staff Sergeant Matthews (Cena) is felled by Laith's sniper, and his spotter Sergeant Isaac (Taylor-Johnson) takes cover by the titular structure.
And there he stays, wounded, in a limited movement game of cat-and-mouse with the unseen assassin - for the entire film.
Liman is known for his big action set pieces, so in keeping it this tight, he actually manages to add some tension and suspense. For a film set against a huge expanse, there's a claustrophobia to Isaac's predicament. You don't know if he'll make it out in one piece, if at all (he has a heinous leg wound).
Taylor-Johnson pulls out his redneck accent again and he is good enough in the role, but not outstanding. The situation is greater than the character. Take a bottle of water with you because you can almost taste the sand, and the lack of music adds to the arid feel.
But while The Wall hits the right notes with action, the dialogue is weak and gets trite very quickly. The sniper even trots out "We are not so different, you and I" - possibly the most cliched of villain lines.
His words are there to emphasise that the war in Iraq was a bad idea, hurting too many innocents. But putting that into what turns out to be an experimental indie film is only going to preach to the choir. Get that message in some no-brain Michael Bay film and you might have more effect.
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli
DIRECTOR: Doug Liman
THE SKINNY: A US soldier (Taylor-Johnson) is trapped in the middle of a desert by a lethal Iraqi sniper (Nakli). Under the baking sun and taunted by his nemesis, his only protection is an unsteady wall.
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