If you like movies about war and soldiers — specifically those that lean more toward psychological thriller than action — you should see this one sooner than later. The less you know about Doug Liman’s drama going in, the more intriguing it will be — especially since there isn’t that much plot.
We begin in some remote part of Iraq, in 2007, where two U.S. Army servicemen — Sgt. Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Staff Sgt. Shane Matthews (John Cena) are hunkered down on a dusty hillside, armed with sniper rifles and high-powered binoculars. They’ve been there for a day, patiently watching an area below them. It is the site of a pipeline construction — now halted as half-a-dozen subcontractors lie dead on the ground. The workers appear to have been shot in the head, suggesting the work of a trained sniper, who may or may not still be on the scene. Isaac and Matthews suspect that such a gunman is holed up behind the low crumbling wall near the pipeline. Frustrated with the fruitless surveillance operation, they head down off the hill to investigate. And … there is indeed a hidden sniper.
After this short set-up, the film settles into a cat-and-mouse drama, where physical endurance and certain tactical skills matter, but so does brain work: figuring things out from few clues, making calculations and playing head games. The drama unfolds more or less in real time, and may be one of the grimiest, dustiest films I’ve ever seen. The Wall’s tagline is “This isn’t a war. It’s a game.” That’s a fair assessment, from the occasional zingy chess-match nature of the “battle” to the rather improbable story.