“The Wall”

           

            Any movie with only three characters is a risk.  Especially if one of them is only a garbled voice over a scratchy comlink.  The other two better be absolutely riveting.

            And they are.  Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the spotter, the “Eyes” for the sniper, Matthews (John Cena).  They're both American soldiers in Iraq as the war is officially winding down in 2007.  But here they are, out in the desert, by themselves, somehow out of touch with the rest of their unit.

            We viewers have to figure out what's going on here through the profanity-laced dialogue of the two soldiers, and peering with them through their gun sights, where we eventually realize we're looking at the lifeless bodies of the other soldiers in their platoon.  They have been wiped out by the infamous Afghan sniper called “The Ghost,” who's reputed to have killed 75 U.S. soldiers single-handedly.  Matthews and Isaac are desperately scanning the perimeter, looking for any kind of motion, and see none.  They figure that “The Ghost” must have just slipped away again, but as they descend their high ground to check on their comrades-in-arms, they both get hit.  Matthews is down, and not getting back up.  Isaac scrambles behind a stone wall, where he painfully attends to his wounded leg with the best tourniquet he can manage.

            He uses his radio to ask for help, but then begins to suspect that the voice that's answering him is not a friendly.  Yes, he's talking to “The Ghost,” who has intentionally shot out Isaac's knee as well as his canteen.  Just to watch him suffer.  This infuriates Isaac, but there's not much he can do, other than try to keep “The Ghost,” who calls himself “Juba” (the voice of Laith Nakli) busy on the comlink in hopes that Matthews just might stir himself enough to get just one more shot at their elusive target.

            It's intense, it's tough to watch, and it's certainly not fun.  But if it's any realistic indication of the kind of challenges our soldiers face “over there,” then we should all watch it, so we can know more about what we're sending them to do, and how incredibly difficult it is.

           

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  What are the reasons for us to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan?

2)                  What are the reasons for us not to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan?

3)                  What's the most grueling physical ordeal you've endured?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association