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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
- On DVD or streaming: January 15, 2021
- Cast: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Michael Kelly
- Director: Mikael Hafstrom
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Robots
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence and language throughout.
- Last updated: January 19, 2021
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