American soldiers Allan Issac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Shane Matthews (John Cena) are stuck in the Iraqi desert, pinned down by an unseen sniper. Matthews is badly injured while Issac is forced to take cover behind a crumbling stone wall with a bullet in his knee. What ensues is Issac’s fight for survival as he tries to find the sniper before he bleeds out.
The plot may seem fairly simple but as the film develops, it takes a surprisingly clever – and sinister – turn. The clear-cut, linear narrative means no flashbacks are necessary. Instead, a radio conversation between Issac and the invisible assailant gives just enough background information to understand the characters better.
Being the only actor doing the acting for most of the film, this is a make-or-break role for Taylor-Johnson. Despite having no one physically present to talk to, Taylor-Johnson delivers the right emotion and reaction at the right time. Sporting a Chris Evans-style beard that makes him almost unrecognisable, and coupled with the dirt and sand, he looks tough and seasoned as he peers through his scope in search of the sniper.
Being a stickler for continuity in films, I was also impressed with Taylor-Johnson’s ability to maintain the belief of his injuries. With an injury as minute as his index finger, he manages to keep his awkward hold on the rifle always ensuring that the finger is not in use. Even when the situation merely requires him to rest his hand on his rifle, that finger is still up in the air like it just don’t care.
It is also interesting to see a more nuanced take on a suspected terrorist that doesn’t subscribe to the usual Hollywood stereotypes. Though parts of the conversation do devolve into typical Jihadist talk, the voice portrayal by Laith Nakli leaves you in doubt that the character is educated and far more complex than a simple terrorist.
The decision not to give the Iraqi sniper a face also leaves him open to interpretation. He could look like a terrorist of the popular imagination, guns blazing and all, or he could be a well-dressed man with accurate shooting skills – the assumption is yours to make.
Unfortunately for Cena, this is not the right film for him to solidify his presence as an upcoming wrestler-turned-Hollywood superstar. Though he holds his own, he isn’t given any opportunity to stand out. Even in scenes he shares with Taylor-Johnson, Cena doesn’t seem to put a lot of personality into his character. But he does have a solid booty-shaking sequence that offers a bit of comic relief in an otherwise dead serious film.
The Wall opens in Singapore tomorrow. Tell us if you agree with our review!