Movie Review: ‘Outside the Wire’ is an Explosive Action Thriller Showing the Dangers of Sentient AI

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The fear of artificial intelligence becoming sentient and turning on people has plagued the human race for decades. Movies like Terminator and Ex Machina have portrayed an imaginative future of what AI is capable of.

Netflix’s latest action movie about the U.S. armed forces, Outside the Wire, isn’t exactly The Terminator, but it still tells a scary story of what a sentient machine could do as a modern-day soldier.

Set in the year 2036, Eastern Europe is engulfed in a civil war; The criminal warlord Viktor Koval wants to make Ukraine a part of Russia and has received support from the Kremlin to wage his terrorist attacks.

“outside the wire” — military terminology for attacking the enemy.

However, the US gets involved, maintaining a presence as a “peace-keeping” force but often engaging in shootouts and skirmishes, aided by drones.

The movie starts with a shootout between marines and militants. After drone pilot Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) breaks the chain of command and fires a missile that kills two marines, in order to save the remaining 38, he is charged with insubordination.

As punishment, Harp is sent to the frontlines at Camp Nathaniel where he is assigned to assist Leo (Anthony Mackie), a U.S. government prototype android with a human face.

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Movie Review: Outside the Wire is an Explosive Action Thriller Showing the Dangers of Sentient AI
Credit: Netflix

Like Harp, I was unprepared when I first saw Leo’s true form

Unlike other robots enlisted in the US army, Leo is different as he was designed to have feelings and empathy to win over hearts and minds. He also has an iridescent torso made out of flexible metal and state of the art AI that is incredibly difficult to destroy.

Leo enlists Harp to help him track down and kill terrorist leader, Koval, who plans to gain access to the nuclear weapons Russia has leftover from the Cold War.

At 1 hr 55 mins, Outside the Wire is an enjoyably paced thriller which pairs a human and an android to explore the differences between man and machine.

Movie Review: Outside the Wire is an Explosive Action Thriller Showing the Dangers of Sentient AI
Credit: Netflix

In the movie, Leo and Harp race through action-packed skirmishes to get to the nuclear launch codes first. However, there is a twist that no one probably expected.

At first glance, the movie seems far more complex and patriotic but it goes sideways pretty quickly. After retrieving the launch code, Leo betrays Harp, revealing plans of his own in the process.

The end plots see Harp going after Leo to stop a looming nuclear attack on the United States. The big bang explosion that climaxes the movie was very predictable and mundane compared to the high impact mystery the movie started with.

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in Outside the Wire, the Director, Mikael Håfström entices with action scenes that fall neatly one after another, with a chase scene and explosion at a hospital followed quickly by a hostage crisis at a bank.

However, he doesn’t supply with any in-depth analyses of the robotics and technology Leo was made of. From the patch used to seal his wounds to the tracker that was a fail-safe, everything about Leo was a mystery.

Another major theme the movie explores is the ethical ramifications of drones. In the movie, when orphanage headmistress, Sofiya (Emily Beecham) points out that many of the orphans are left without families because of drone bombs, Harp is fraught with dreadful reaction. At that moment, he seemed to be what he is really fighting for, and who he’s really fighting.

Movie Review: Outside the Wire is an Explosive Action Thriller Showing the Dangers of Sentient AI
Credit: Netflix

All in all, the Netflix movie proposes a larger ideological question about humanity, artificial intelligence, and whether emotional sincerity or analytical prowess is more important for saving lives, even though it doesn’t deliver suitable answers.

Although the director disappointed with an overly familiar plot rather than digging into the themes, the movie is currently number 1 on Netflix in Nigeria.

However, the displeasure of critics can be seen in the low rotten tomatoes ratings of 36% and 5.4 on iMDb.

That said, Outside the Wire is a spectacular movie for lovers of action. Mackie didn’t disappoint in boosting the thrill as he takes down man and machine in theatrical fashion.

You can catch the movie on Netflix this weekend.

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