Review: Tightly wound war thriller ‘The Wall’ hits hard

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is riveting in Doug Liman’s small-scale sniper tale

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“The Wall” is an intense, tightly wound, neatly contained little war thriller that lies almost entirely on the shoulders of Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Taylor-Johnson is dynamite as Allen Isaac, a U.S. sniper trapped on one side of a makeshift wall in the Iraq desert. On the other, far off in the distance, is a deadly Iraqi sniper who is heard from, but never seen (Laith Nakli is the voice).

Director Doug Liman, who has gone much bigger in big budget action thrillers like “Edge of Tomorrow,” relishes the small scale here and keeps the action as tight as a rubber band. Writer Dwain Worrell’s script, which sets the story in the waning days of 2007 when the war in Iraq was supposedly over, could easily be adapted to a one-man play. Liman takes gives it a sense of urgency and tension that makes you feel like you’re there in the desert, sun baking your skin, dirt covering your teeth and sweat dripping into your eyeballs.

Taylor-Johnson is just a kid, but he’s a trained soldier, and relies heavily on his training and intuition in his situation.

The warfare is just as much psychological as it is physical, and “The Wall” takes you inside its soldier’s mind. This is a smart, gritty, quietly chaotic war movie which resonates far beyond its purposely small scale.

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‘The Wall’


Rated R: for language throughout and some war violence

Running time: 81 minutes