July 13, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Surmounting the Wall

By Nick Boyd

 

“The Wall” is a very intense sniper drama that takes place in Iraq in 2007. It centers on an American soldier named Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who after seeing a comrade of his named Matthews (John Cena) shot down in the desert, hides behind a wall for cover. That is when a mysterious voice (who we soon learn is an Iraqi sniper) begins communicating with Isaac through Isaac’s radio. If Isaac does not answer the sniper’s questions as they are conversing, the sniper threatens to kill Isaac and his comrade Matthews. Prior to hearing the sniper’s voice on the other end, Isaac had tried to radio in for help, but it was to no avail, as the signal strength was too weak.

This is minimalist filmmaking at its best, with Taylor-Johnson making the pain and raw emotion palpable. The energy of this suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller rarely lets up. The sniper preys on Isaac’s vulnerability by asking him personal questions. There is also a political issue that the sniper brings up involving the soldier. He says that he is justified in whatever actions that he takes because soldiers such as Isaac should not be invading his country; it is morally wrong.

The movie did falter in some areas. How was the sniper able to initiate contact with Isaac in the first place through Isaac’s radio? How did the sniper know personal information about Isaac’s comrades? The sniper discussing Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare with Isaac did not seem believable. It came off as dialogue that was too overwritten and artificial.

I found that the film bore resemblances to both “Lone Survivor” and “American Sniper.” Each of the films dealt with soldiers who were highly trained marksmen trying to fend off Middle-East adversaries. As the audience we were placed right alongside the soldiers, giving the proceedings a psychological feel to them and showing the toll that combat and defending our country takes on soldiers.

By never showing what the sniper actually looks like (we always just hear his voice), the movie takes an approach rarely utilized by pictures in this genre. In a time when non-stop action is the norm, director Doug Liman has us pay close attention to the smallest subtleties. It is not just what we hear that is scary. It is the way the director has us listening intently when there is nothing to be heard. By keeping the appearance of the sniper off-screen, there is a certain unpredictability to how things could play out, regardless of what the sniper says to Isaac that he will or will not do.

While certainly bleak, the compelling situation at hand keeps us glued and features an ending that many will probably not see coming.

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