A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Wall is a war movie set in Iraq. Although it centers on just two characters (plus the voice of a third) and is set in one location over the course of one day, it has very intense, gory violence, including guns and shooting; bloody, gory wounds (and spurting blood); and attempts to treat wounds by digging bullets out with knives and applying tourniquets. A helicopter crashes, dead bodies are shown, and there's almost constant shouting and tension. Language is extremely strong, with constant uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "bitch," and many other words. Some sexual innuendo and derogatory remarks are also heard. The movie -- which is tough, lean, and clever -- raises questions about the horrors of war and what makes someone an enemy (vs. a friend).
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What's the story?
In THE WALL, two soldiers -- Army Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena) and Sergeant Allan Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) -- have spent the better part of 24 hours watching a scene of destruction, where contractors installing a pipeline have been massacred. Mathews decides that the coast is clear and goes to investigate but is shot by an unseen sniper. Isaac rushes to his side and is himself shot in the knee. He takes refuge behind a crumbling wall, only to find that both his radio antenna and his water bottle have been ruined. He tries to reach help, and a voice responds; but Isaac realizes that it's the voice of the Iraqi sniper, trying to fool him. The sniper, whom Isaac believes is the infamous Juba (voiced by Laith Nakli), tries to keep up a conversation with the American, while Isaac tries to figure a way out of his predicament. Can he locate the sniper and save himself -- and his partner -- before it's too late?
Is it any good?
This kind of compact storytelling can be difficult to pull off, but Dwain Worrell's screenplay makes it look easy; this is a tense, tight, bracing film, recalling many "B" movie classics. Worrell's work comes without any flashbacks or anything that takes viewers us away from the immediate action, but it still manages to reveal crucial background details in a convincing way. It also opens up the characters -- including the unseen sniper -- beyond simple archetypes.
Director Doug Liman turns in surprising, no-frills work here, closer to The Bourne Identity than to anything else in his filmography. He does revert to hand-held camerawork from time to time, but he also expertly establishes the entire space so that nothing ever jolts us out of the action. Liman also effectively ramps up the mood with a powerful suggestion of heat and exhaustion. Though The Wall is a good deal bloodier and more aggressive than earlier war films by the likes of Samuel Fuller, Don Siegel, and Anthony Mann, it still deserves comparison to them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Why do you think the soldiers use derogatory remarks and sexual innuendo?
Does the movie humanize the Iraqi sniper, or is he a one-dimensional bad guy? Is he a stereotype?
What is the movie saying about the nature of war? The definition of "enemy" and "ally"?
- In theaters: May 12, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: August 15, 2017
- Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli
- Director: Doug Liman
- Studios: Amazon Studios, Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some war violence
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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