The Wall ★★★

Some concepts are so money that they should be virtually impossible to screw up; this one comes precariously close. In 2007 post-“Mission Accomplished” Iraq, a pair of Army Rangers—Matthews (John Cena) and Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)—investigate a construction site where a sniper has taken out multiple civilian contractors and security personnel, only to find that they too have become targets. The script by Dwain Worrell pins the soldiers down with seemingly no hope of rescue, and director Doug Liman builds terrific tension out of the scenario and the resourcefulness required for survival, particularly as the shooter remains an enigmatic ghost who could be anywhere. The trouble begins when Isaac begins communicating with the sniper (Laith Nakli) by radio, turning the antagonist into something like a James Bond super-villain who taunts and monologues his prey. Throw in a seemingly obligatory redemption angle for one of our main characters and you’ve got a psychologically overstuffed script that only avoids collapse thanks to a couple of stellar set pieces and an idea that shouldn’t require saying: Sniper, trapped soldiers, whaddaya need, a road map?

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