I finally got around to watching the war film The Wall (2017), starring WWE star John Cena. It is a curiosity because this is a pretty serious role to take on, and I wanted to see if he could do it. Nothing against Cena, but if you look at previous WWE films like Knucklehead (2010), 12 Rounds (2009) or See No Evil (2006), they’re not exactly covering material like this. The Wall, however, is not a WWE project, so Cena is able to stretch his legs.
The Wall is a drama/thriller/war film that runs for 81 minutes and is rated R for language and violence. It was directed by Doug Liman and written by Dwain Worrel. It’s about two American soldiers, Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (a sniper) and Sergeant Allen Isaac (a spotter), who are sent on a mission to check out a pipeline construction site in the desert. After waiting patiently for 22 hours while watching the site, Matthews decides the site is clear and goes down to have a closer look at things. Unfortunately, an enemy sniper was waiting for them to make a move and that’s when all hell breaks loose for the two Americans. Pinned down behind a crumbling wall and not knowing where the enemy sniper is, Matthews and Isaac must find a way to survive.
I thought the story was good, but it just didn’t hook me the way other war films have. Yeah, it’s a seriously messed up situation and you’re constantly wondering what they are going to do, but watching three people in a standoff for eighty-one minutes is about as thrilling as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where the writer throws in some adrenaline-fueled moments, but for the most part, it’s talking and sitting. There’s a lot of dialogue exchange between the enemy and the Americans that leads to some nice twists later in the movie, but again, not attention keeping for the moment. Sadly, the film has all the right elements to be a really good but it falls short when it comes to putting everything together.
The movie had trouble holding my attention at times because of the start and stop pace. There’s a lot of time, in which nothing is happening and we’re just watching the characters sit there while they ponder the situation. In some instances, something big would happen real quick. Then, we’re back to watching them sit. The Wall is definitely more of a drama with thrilling moments. The writer tries to make the conversations between the Americans and the enemy thought-provoking and interesting, but it never gets to that level. It just comes off feeling like some guys chilling over a cup of coffee while killing some time before work.
The cast is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), John Cena (The Marine) and Laith Nakli (The Long Road Home). Like I said, I wanted to catch this one to see how Cena did and for what he did do in the movie; he played his role well. The film centers more around the hostile relationship between Taylor-Johnson and Nakli’s characters, with some Cena here and there. Taylor-Jonhson’s character kind of annoyed me for most of the film. So, that didn’t help much with getting into the movie. I’ve seen some of Taylor-Johnson’s other films and while I can’t say he’s a great actor, I’ve seen him do better than this one. He kept switching back and forth between putting too much into the scene or not enough and making the moment feel flat.
There are a few times where CGI was used and it didn’t really blend into the scene smoothly, but the other special effect looked good. The set used for the movie is pretty simple. A few cars, a pipeline, some bodies, a crumbling wall and open desert as far as the eyes can see. The set really helps build the helpless/doomed feeling the Americans are in during the film because of the isolation of their location and the few items that could help them (cars or better cover) being just out of their reach.
Overall, it had potential but falls short. If you’re looking for a war film, I’d skip this one.