Director Doug Liman returns with another military-themed film after 2014's excellent Edge of Tomorrow, with the tightly-paced thriller The Wall. At a quick-paced 80 mins; The Wall could have easily been a real-time thriller similar to 16 Blocks but the film takes another route.
Centered around two battle buddies Sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena in a surprising dramatic turn), who are conducting a counter-sniper mission after the deaths of US contractors who were on a pipeline building mission. Making the grave mistake of thinking the site is clear, Matthews decides to call the mission.
While attempting to collect radios from the dead, Matthews is shot by an unseen sniper, and what follows is a tense thriller. After being shot, Isaac's must take shelter behind a wall as he attempts to save himself and his battle buddy. When the film's antagonist Juba (Laith Nakli) makes his appearance in a voice-over performance, we are immediately thrown into the same scary situation as Isaac. Screenwriter Dwain Worrell wisely decides never to show Juba's face or use a known name to provide the voice on the other end of the radio, with whom Matthews is in a battle of wits.
Johnson continues to show his range as an actor, as his role in this film is vastly different from what we saw in last year's Nocturnal Animals. Additionally, John Cena is slowly growing as an actor, and given the right material as he was with Sisters, Trainwreck, and Daddy's Home, Cena could have a career to fall back once he decides to retire from WWE.
Hollywood will always have a love-hate relationship, with films centered on the Iraq war. For every American Sniper and Green Zone both great made films, there is a Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk or The Lucky Ones, both of which were mediocre. Thankfully Doug Liman's ninth film, The Wall, has more in common with the previous movies and less with the latter.
Final Grade B +