I brought a young guy in his 20’s that just got out of the Marines to see this film with me. I was surprised that I liked it more than he did, when I’m usually not big on war pictures. He said as we were leaving, “It just got repetitive.”
It’s set in 2007, near the end of the Iraq War. Two American soldiers (John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) get trapped by an infamous Iraqi sniper.
Staff Sergeant Matthews (Cena) is tired of their long stakeout, and after about 20 hours of hiding behind bushes, he decides to get a closer look at things. He’s shot and exposed. Sergeant Isaac (Johnson) was his eyes, and he ends up finding protection behind a crudely built wall, that looks like it’s one strong wind away from crumbling over.
It’s refreshing that the script (from Dwain Worrell) doesn’t try to give us a lot of backstories to illicit sympathy. It’s a tense enough situation that these guys are in. I don’t need to hear one of them complain they have to get back to the wife and kids. It’s a much more interesting take that they have going here.
Director Doug Liman last impressed me with Edge of Tomorrow (Tom Cruise). He’s also the guy that gave us the first Bourne Identity, and in the ‘90s I loved his indie pictures Swinger’s and Go. And after talking to John Cena at CinemaCon last month, and listening to his enthusiasm for this movie (although he’s not given quite enough to do in it), I’m really hoping this film finds an audience.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who made a splash in Kick-Ass, had an impressive turn in Nocturnal Animals, and he’s good in this.
It’s nice that the movie didn’t get preachy with politics, or go over-the-top with gratuitous gore (I’m thinking about you, Hacksaw Ridge). It used some interesting techniques to build tension. Sometimes that was a dust storm at just the right moment, or a few rocks and bricks falling off the cobbled wall.
There’s some interesting tension created by the intercom systems the soldiers are using to communicate. It reminded me of Bat 21 (Danny Glover, Gene Hackman) almost 30 years ago. Perhaps that movie had a bit more tension, but it’s still impressive that you can be sitting on the edge of your seat listening to two people talk to each other.
On the subject of people talking, Laith Nakli (24: Legacy) is incredible, too. Even if we never see him, he does a nice job of not sounding monotone, or one-dimensional.
It’s also surprising that in this little picture they could show things I hadn’t seen in any previous war pictures.
The movie could’ve used a bit more suspense instead of just one plot device. I was also bummed that the ending was predictable.
If you like war movies though, this is certainly worth catching.
3 stars out of 5.