A still from “The Wall” starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena

Courtesy David James/Amazon Studios

Few modern war films give a voice to the enemy. Speaking parts are usually reserved for the battlefield’s victor, with only short glimpses of the losing opponent scrambling through a thick jungle or getting shot down in the sky from behind. 

In this latest movie from “Jason Bourne” series director Doug Liman, we find ourselves watching a deadly game of cat and mouse take place between a pair of overmatched U.S. soldiers and a single Iraqi sharpshooter in a post-Saddam Hussein timeline.

Given the mission to find out who is repeatedly taking out an American contractor supply route, last year’s Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”) teams up with professional wrestler John Cena to scope out the source of the convoy trouble. As spotter and sniper, both make costly mistakes that jeopardize their position and lives.

“The Wall” refers to the dilapidated and war-torn rock remains of an Iraqi school that serves as a source of cover from an enemy well-hidden and versed in American military tactics. 

Despite a couple of camouflaged political statements, “The Wall” asserts itself as psychological thriller with several suspenseful moments. Highlighting the film’s success is the established communications between opposing sides of this duel. The isolation of counter-sniper operations and both stars morphing, from being the hunter to the hunted, jumps out at shocked viewers.

With less than a handful of characters in the entire 81-minute movie, this quagmire instills a deep sense of survival on the battlefield. Most interesting is the notion that misery loves company. Having a battle-buddy elevates one’s spirits and helps push them through intense adversity. Suffering alone, though, has the opposite coping effect upon a soldier’s mindset.

Director Liman deserves credit for this gritty, sandstorm production. Every plot change never goes a minute further than necessary, keeping the film fresh and storyline evolving just before boredom sets in for the audience. Likewise, his ballsy ending gives moviegoers their FUBAR military moment to leave with.

Making the film industry’s 2014 Black List for “most-liked” motion picture screenplay not yet produced, “The Wall” has finally made it to the big-screen. It gives us a unique perspective that starts a conversation between friend and foe. It makes us feel like we’re in the foxhole aside Cena and Taylor-Johnson. Your lips will almost begin to chap with dehydration soon following. Grab some lip balm, a water bottle and a rifle…this pair needs you.  

Grade: B

“The Wall” is rated R for language throughout and some war violence. Its running time is 1 hour and 21 minutes.

 (Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com)

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