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The Wall - Movie Review

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The Wall - Movie Review

3 starsA wall. A divider used for shelter, protection, or privacy. A barrier that separates good from evil, life from death, and secrets from the known.

It’s a metaphor director Doug Liman uses to great effect in The Wall, a film that takes place in late 2007 during the waning months of the Iraq war. The war is over, actually, but history reminds us of the vicious insurgency that ensued and that finds an American sniper team caught in a cat-and-mouse game of survival.

With literally more dead bodies appearing on screen than live ones, The Wall is basically a one-man show with Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) as Isaac, occupying 90% of the film’s screen time. He’s one half of a sniper team, with partner, Matthews (professional wrestler John Cena), sent in to protect a construction crew installing a new pipeline through the Iraq desert. But upon arriving at their position, they notice the entire construction crew has been killed... by head shots.

Suspecting a sniper, the pair set up several hundred yards from the killing field and wait for the Iraqi sniper to make a mistake. Of course he never does, and after nearly 24 hours of camouflaged waiting, Matthews breaks his concealment to walk down to take a look. Big mistake.

He’s hit, goes down, and Isaac instinctually follows, only to be hit himself and become pinned down behind the remnants of a crumbling stone wall, the only thing standing between himself and the crosshairs of the Iraqi sniper.

What ensues is a war of wits and minds as Isaac soon discovers that the evacuation team he was calling for rescue on the radio is actually the voice of the notorious Iraqi sniper named Juba or the Angel of Death, and who some credit with dozens of kills.

We never see Juba (voiced by Laith Nakli) but we learn that he commands great control of the English language and even teaches it to Iraqi students. The ensuing radio conversation between the injured Isaac and Juba becomes the bulk of the entire movie and runs the gamut from their mutual commonalities to the vast differences between their views on the war.

A one-man show is difficult to pull off without whip-smart dialogue that feels real, provides insight, and that drives the proceedings forward. First-time screenwriter Dwaine Worrell keeps us on the edge of our seats with tense banter between the two warriors who face off in a menacing war of words. In addition, Taylor-Johnson is more than up to the task of holding his own with a performance that should rank among his best.

Then there’s the titular wall. The rickety, crumbling stone structure five feet high and ten yards long that, in a way, becomes a character itself. The remaining structure of an old schoolhouse where Islam was taught to children, the wall is now a distressing metaphor for all that’s left between the two warring sides.

Brutal, tedious, and often difficult to watch, The Wall is not for everyone. It's an intense talk fest, but those with an affinity for war films that simultaneously depict the brutal nature of fighting and the ambiguity of differing ideals will find plenty to like. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) manages to masterfully make the vast stretches of open desert feel as confining and claustrophobic as a dark basement closet. It’s just all around good filmmaking about a subject that hasn’t yet played itself out.

The Wall - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some war violence.
81 mins
: Doug Liman
Dwaine Worrell
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli
: War
This isn't war. It's a game.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You got eyes on the wall?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Roadside Attractions.
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 12, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: “The Wall” is a deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them. Their fight becomes as much a battle of will and wits as it is of lethally accurate marksmanship.

No details available.

The Wall - Movie Review

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