Director Doug Liman has been a director whose career I’ve enjoyed following since I was in high school and first saw Swingers. It was one of those cool independent films that appeared in the mid-90’s when independent films were all the rage. A couple years later he did the film Go which I felt beautifully captured the rave culture that had taken the states by storm but the film was quickly overlooked. Then he got his big break with The Bourne Identity and as his career expanded to Mr. and Mrs. Smith so did the budgets ie: Edge of Tomorrow. Now with the release of The Wall Liman seems to have gone back to his roots in a way in creating one of the most intimate and intense war films to hit the cinemas, despite its major release being set by Amazon Studios.
After being called out to a site where a group of contractors were attacked, two American soldiers are sent out to investigate the site. When the film starts, Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Matthews (John Cena) have already been hidden and monitoring the site for more than 18 hours and have seen no movement and believe the site is secure, believing if there was a sniper he would have already left by this point. It’s when the pair go to investigate the scene they discover that they are not alone in the process but men are wounded and separated.
The wall in question in the film is barely a wall, but what remains of a school that had been bombed earlier. Isaac takes cover behind these bricks and rocks that are crumbling around him where he hopes to make a stand against this sniper or at least take cover till help arrives.
Though the action may be sparse when it comes to this being a war film, the tension takes hold in the early moments of the film and doesn’t ease up until the close credits start. To maintain this kind of tension in a film that is pretty much a one man show with Taylor-Johnson at the helm, this is a remarkable achievement. What’s more impressive, despite the location being in the desert the film has a very claustrophobic feel where despite simply being a viewer, like Isaac we never know if or when the next shot will follow.
To keep the film going and not simply be an 80 minute silent film, we get some fun banter between Isaac and the sniper who has him in his sights. Juba aka The Ghost is who is in Isaacs ear, playing a cat and mouse game where he is constantly reminding Isaac who is the mouse.
The story here is simple and the execution is excellent. If you’re looking for a film that is smarter than your typical summer movie popcorn flick, but still keeps you riveted, The Wall is the film to see. Sure it’s something you can soon watch at home, but this is a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen with its beautiful cinematography and excellent sound mixing. This is perhaps one of the season’s first sleepers to be released and I hope it can build some word of mouth traction. It may not be perfect, but the film certainly hits its mark.