On paper this very pared-down thriller that happens at the end of the Iraq war and which is essentially a two-handed story would seem like a tough sell, but in the hands of director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and with a tour-de-force performance from Brit actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the result is a stunning riveting drama that has you on the edge of your seat until the final credits role.
Taylor-Johnson plays Allan ‘Ize’ Isaac who is the ‘spotter’ for Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena) who have been despatched to a site in the desert where a pipeline is being built after receiving a distress call. When they arrive there are dead bodies everywhere, so they stake out the scene from a safe distance just in case there are any hidden snipers still there waiting to attack again.
After several hours and seeing no movement anywhere, Matthews rather confidently steps out from their safe cover to get closer to the bodies on the construction site, but as soon as he is the open a shot rings out and he hits the dirt badly wounded. Ize rushes out to safe his colleague and gets a bullet in his leg for his trouble so is forced to take cover behind the remains of a crumbling wall.
Reaching for his radio too contact the Base to ask for help, he finds that the antenna is broken, but by switching to a local frequency he suddenly picks up a voice offering assistance. However when he asked too many unusual questions Ize realizes that he is nor actually speaking to Base but to his would-be assassin who now starts to taunt him. Unaware of the shooter’s exact position, Ize knows that the wall he is sheltering behind is however in the Iraqi’s sightline, and thus the begin a whole cat-and-mouse verbal battle.
The Wall, with a script by newbie writer Dwain Worrell, is not so much a story but more of a situation. As the two men verbally battle it out, interspersed with some occasional rapid firing when they try to bring an end to this stand-off, we are never allowed to get a hint of how this will ultimately end. When the rather brilliant finale comes, it is very neat twist plot that no-one could have possibly predicted.
Cena, the ex WWE star, plays a very small part in the proceedings as this is very much Ize’s story …..with an excellent contribution by Laith Nakli as the voice of the unseen sniper. Taylor-Johnson, who just won a Golden Globe for his turn in Nocturnal Animals, gives a career-best performance under very extreme circumstances in this role proving (yet once again) that as he can ‘carry’ a movie like this on his own, he is destined for even bigger and better things ahead.
The war maybe over, but it is never finished until the last man is down and out.