Aaron Taylor-Johnson John Cena Laith Nakl
There are some movies that make you wonder why they’re made at all. For example, what is the reasoning behind The Wall? Even though it’s about war, there is very little action, no heroics, and instead has a bizarre situation where an American soldier talks to an armed Iraqi citizen who has hacked into his radio system, is watching his every move, and has plans to sabotage a rescue. The Iraqi is a schoolteacher who has good reasons to hate Americans and deeply resents their invasion of his country. The odd part is his sadistic streak, where he keeps trying to engage Isaac (Taylor-Johnson) in a conversation about himself, his family, and the references made by Isaac and the other soldier, Sergeant Matthews (Cena) when they were standing watch to see if anyone was around a bombed out school, unaware that they were being observed. In the contrived plot, the attempts at conversation seem solely for the purpose of taunting Isaac later with things about himself he feels bad about. It’s a weird kind of psychological warfare resembling an interrogation that encourages the subject to reveal things about himself that may be compromising, and in this case, it is alternated with predictions of what the Iraqi is going to do to Isaac (e.g., peel the skin of his face and pluck his eyes out). He constantly reminds Isaac of the power he has over him.
Unlike the film Locke, where Tom Hardy talks on the phone the entire time while he drives a BMW, riveting the viewer’s attention, The Wall is tedious, nerve-wracking in a bad way, and shows experienced American soldiers behaving unwisely and hysterically. Not that that doesn’t happen, but to show it without apparent purpose in a film with essentially only three characters…? The dialog—when you can understand it, what with the sound of the howling wind, radio static, and actors speaking inarticulately—is sorely lacking in building up intrigue and interest. Maybe it’s common for soldiers to use the f-word multiple times in every sentence just like gangsters, but I find that hard to believe. Most of all, in a movie it is a waste of words that gives us very little information.
My final beef with this film is the absence of background information about a mysterious man named Juba, an ominous figure with the appellation of “Angel of Death.” Is this the sadistic figure who taunted Isaac for the entire film? Revealing more about him early on might have made the film more interesting.
Whereas Aaron Taylor-Johnson was given high praise for his performance in Nocturnal Animals, I think the script has let him down in this production. He did as well as he could with what he was given, but this is not a scene-stealing part like Ray Marcus, a real baddie on an isolated Texas highway. John Cena is essentially wasted as the other main character in that he is taken out of the action early on and given very little to do.
This is a movie with potential that, unfortunately, misses the mark. Director Doug Liman and writer Dwain Worrell will need to go a long way in creating a story that will engage audiences and have more meaningful content.
This war picture has lots of tension without excitement.