Outside the Wire

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Outside the Wire Movie Poster Image
Extremely violent sci-fi tale tackles war consequences.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film shows some of the darker impulses of humans in seeking power or the destruction of others. It questions the legitimacy of third-party military involvement in international conflicts, and it takes aim at the inhumanity and detachment of drone strikes. Humans may be emotional, lazy, and prone to errors, but they can also learn from their mistakes and make selfless acts.

Positive Role Models

Precise, efficient, and smart, drone operator Harp learns the lessons the military ethics committee intends for him after he disobeys orders, resulting in military casualties. He becomes a lone hero, putting his own life at risk to save untold others and showing courage and intelligence in outwitting an android soldier gone AWOL. He also earns the respect of skeptical superiors. Other soldiers and fighters are often shown to have selfish or misguided motivations and destructive impulses, including android Leo. Harp and Leo are both Black, while the insurgents and resistance fighters are all Eastern European.


Urban battle scenes include all manner of shoot-outs, with people -- civilians and soldiers -- killed at short- and long-range and in bloody detail. Individuals are exploded, stabbed, shot, strangled, beaten, dropped from great heights, and harpooned. The two main characters both kill people. Standoff scenes include hostages. Mass graves with multiple dead bodies are seen in pictures and live. People scream and writhe in pain before they die.


Leo teases Harp about his "hottie" fiancée, suggesting she might be unfaithful, letting another man "put the beef in her taco," or "playing both sides" with another woman.


A lot of swearing in various contexts, including versions of "f--k," "s--t," and "damn." Also, "Jesus Christ," "son of a bitch," "a--holes," "hell," "butt," "balls."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while Outside the Wire has some philosophical messages about war, you have to wade through a lot of violence to get to them. Battle scenes include shoot-outs, killings at short- and long-range, explosions, beatings, and stabbings (by both robots and soldiers). Some of the violence feels more like a video game, but other scenes involve people writhing in pain, rivals getting in tense stand-offs, or the discovery of mass-murdered dead bodies. The film also has frequent swearing in various contexts and includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "Jesus Christ," "son of a bitch," "a--holes," "hell," "butt," and "balls." A couple of derogatory comments about a man's fiancée being unfaithful to him is the extent of sexual content. The main character undergoes a transformation from efficient-but-unemotional soldier to heroic-and-selfless warrior.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGreatKarma January 16, 2021

NETFLIX has made another MASTERPIECE

i just finished watching this movie all i can say is wow, the movie and action sequences were done quite awesomly(if thats a word). it is beyond a doubt a 2021... Continue reading
Adult Written byo22ie January 16, 2021
Teen, 14 years old Written byDwight Kurt Shrute January 19, 2021

Outside the Wire-Honest Review

First of all, this movie is very violent and graphic, if you let your kids or you play call of duty, this might be okay for them to watch. Of course it has real... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byrayhang January 18, 2021

Really Good Netflix film and great way to start 2021 in the film industry

This is a good film with a very interesting plot, its really cool and I would recommend it to anyone 13 and up. Its super violent and bloody and swear words eve... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the year 2036, Lieutenant Harp (Damson Idris) is sent as punishment for disobeying direct orders into a militarized zone of a US peacekeeping force in an Eastern European civil war in OUTSIDE THE WIRE. He's appointed to work with an officer, Leo (Anthony Mackie), who turns out to be an android. Leo takes Harp outside the safe zone on a mission that turns quickly violent. All manner of insurgents and resistance fighters dot the war-torn landscape, making it hard to know whom to trust. Leo's intentions aren't entirely clear either, and Harp realizes the android is hiding information from him and possibly exploiting Harp for his own secret plans.

Is it any good?

Outside the Wire is a fast-paced and suspenseful futuristic war film with solid acting and a clear ambition to raise provocative questions about the United States' role in the world. It's also very violent and often prioritizes action over character or story. Mackie and Idris are both compelling as two conflicted anti-heroes on an unclear mission together. The third key character of Captain Eckhart, played by House of Cards' Michael Kelly, gains prominence in the last act of the film without enough development earlier on.

Directed by a Swede and set in an imagined future civil war involving Ukraine and Russia, the film takes aim at the US military's never-ending wars, its detached drone attacks, and its parallel vision of itself as a force for peace. Having witnessed untold atrocities, namely civilian casualties coldly dubbed "collateral," the android (spoiler alert) aims to destroy humankind in order to save it from its own, well, inhumanity. The idea of a man-made android with feelings and a reactive human personality is interesting, so long as you don't dig too deep into the actual mechanics of it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Outside the Wire. How does the film question the use of violence while also showcasing it?

  • How does the movie portray the United States' role as a peacekeeping force in the world? Are the U.S. military's efforts always portrayed as warranted and correct? How so?

  • Leo is just a few years old and has super-human physical abilities and human emotions. What might be some of the pros and cons of such sentient robots? How does he compare to the other military robots?

  • Harp is given the chance by an ethics committee to learn from his mistakes. What does he learn?

  • How would you describe the villains in this film? How are they different from villains in other movies you've watched?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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