Netflix's Sci-Fi Thriller 'Outside the Wire' Is Too Robotic For Its Own Good

Anthony Mackie goes to war as a super-soldier in a Netflix movie that can't figure out what it's fighting for.


Unlike some of Netflix’s other recent gun-toting genre offerings, Outside the Wire, a science-fiction combat film starring wayward Avenger Anthony Mackie as a military-funded Terminator, has more than bloodshed on its mind. After a brief title sequence, which establishes the setting as 2036 and outlines the vagaries of an ongoing conflict in Ukraine, director Mikael Håfström (Escape Plan) thrusts you into the chaos of battle with anonymous soldiers calling in back-up, Chappie-like robots (referred to as “Gumps” in the movie) firing away, and everyone yelling “fuck” really loud into their comms devices. Even in the future, with the latest tech available, war is hell. 
That old chestnut also extends to the movie’s drone pilot protagonist, Thomas Harp (Damson Idris), who disobeys a direct order to stand down and makes a deadly tactical decision from the relative safety of a Nevada Airforce base. For this transgression, he’s chewed out by his superiors and quickly shipped off to Eastern Europe, where he’s assigned to work with Mackie’s smirking super-soldier Captain Leo. The two team up on a vaccine delivery mission with a secret intelligence-gathering quest tucked inside, one that raises the stakes by introducing the menace of nuclear weapons. From the jump, the ethical stakes-and the tidy character arcs-are clear: Harp will learn to value humanity (and stop blinking away collateral damage) by palling around with Mackie’s surprisingly self-aware killing machine.The “impressionable rookie and possibly unhinged mentor” dynamic between Harp and Leo is a familiar one, drawn from Training Day and a number of cop movies, but the science-fiction trappings do lead to a handful of clever moments. As Leo grills Harp about his girlfriend back home, demanding to see her picture and implying she’s having an affair with her Pilates instructor, the younger recruit turns to his swaggering commander and hits him with an awkward question. “Aren’t you, like, three years old?” asks Harp. A later scene, that skirts around the implications of Leo’s government-selected skin color, also hints at a slightly more provocative movie lurking beneath the shoot-em-up metal exterior. 
But, perhaps in service of Netflix’s almighty algorithm, Outside the Wire ultimately gives way to a series of Extraction-lite action sequences that take up more time than the earnest philosophizing about the nature of war and identity. As a cybernetic John Wick, Mackie, freed from the PG-13 confines of the MCU, applies himself to all the necessary headshots, body rolls, and arm chops. There’s no shortage of footage of him running fast and absolutely wrecking random attackers in a digital blur of choreographed violence. 
Given Netflix’s long history of brain-dead science-fiction films, this movie will likely earn some goodwill for at least engaging with a handful of “heavy” ideas. No one is expecting the next Starship Troopers or Children of Men here. Still, there’s a rote quality to the presentation that grates as the movie builds to an ending that ends up pulling its punches. Håfström and cinematographer Michael Bonvillain apply a yellow-ish tint to many scenes, giving the movie a dreary, washed-out look. “War is ugly,” Mackie’s elite warrior solemnly observes at one point. Do the movies about it have to be ugly, too?Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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