So said US comedian George Carlin, and the joke (a dark one, admittedly) applies to snipers. If I'm several miles away with a high-velocity rifle and a telescopic scope, I can bring pain to you with all the mysterious whimsicality of God. You have to suffer my slings and arrows as if I were fate itself. It's even better if we're on the phone to each other while it's happening.
It's an idea that's cropped up in multiple thrillers, providing the entire premise for at least one of them: Joel Schumacher's Phonebooth. As in that 2002 movie, The Wall concerns a brash young man pinned into one position by an invisible but audible sharpshooter, tormented and teasingly interrogated by the voice on the line while pinging bullets confine him to a cramped space.
It's 2007, and Sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a 'spotter' for sniper Staff Sargeant Shane Matthews in Iraq. It's while investigating the death of several oil-pipe contractors that Matthews takes an unexpected bullet to the midriff. Isaac is shot in the knee but manages to scrabble behind a disintegrating bit of wall – a wall that belonged to a school blown up by American forces, as he is informed by an anonymous voice on his radio. Stuck between a bullet and a hard place, Isaacs is forced into digressive conversation with a vengeful and eagle-eyed Iraqi who seems to know a suspicious amount about him...
Director Doug Liman can do all kinds of thriller. He can do serious (The Bourne Identity), he can do playful (Mr and Mrs Smith), he can do fantastical and high-concept (Edge of Tomorrow). With The Wall, he bafflingly opts for bland, predictable, and stupid. The film's investigation of Isaac's Hurt Locker psychology is as unconvincing as Taylor-Johnson's Matthew McConaughey impression; the Iraqi is a soliloquizing villain who quotes Robert Frost and actually says the words 'we're not so different, you and I'; and any political sensitivity is undercut by a fake-out ending that frames the sniper as just another indestructible movie monster (rather than a mortal man fighting a war in his own country). It's also not exciting, which is the one thing it needed to be.
|What||The Wall film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
28 Jul 17 – 28 Sep 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|