Greetings again from the darkness. When a director's filmographyincludes "big" action movies like Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. & Mrs. Smith,and The Bourne Identity (the original), the last thing we expect is astripped-down war movie whose camera focuses on a single characteralmost the entire run time. Director Doug Liman certainly understandshow to use the camera in creating tension and stress, yet while he andwriter Dwain Worrell seem so intent on proving the confusion andfutility of war, they seem to forget that a thriller needs either ahero to cheer or a villain to jeer.<br><br>It's late 2007, and the war is winding down as rebuilding efforts areunderway. Hulking Staff Sergeant Matthews (John Cena) and his fellowsoldier Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) have been perched and camouflagedon the side a hill for more than 20 hours as they carry outreconnaissance on the site of an under-construction oil pipeline. Allthey have seen is the remains of a massacre – 8 bodies with no signs oflife. Peering through his malfunctioning scope that once belonged to anow-dead friend, Isaac (known as "Ize" – get it?) and his trainingthinks something doesn't seem right. When Matthews deems the site safe,he heads down to check it out. Of course, all heck breaks out and soonenough, an injured Isaac takes shelter alone behind a teetering stonewall. It turns out a sniper, more patient than the American soldiers,had been biding time for the moment.<br><br>The first eight bodies are construction contractors and a securitydetail … none of which mattered to the sniper. The hook here is thatthe sniper hacks into Isaac's radio and seemingly wants to chat it up,rather than finish him off. We never see the sniper, and neither doMatthews or Isaac … but we do hear him plenty. Laith Nakli voices Juba– known to American soldiers as the Angel of Death, responsible fordozens of US casualties. The film spirals into a psychological game ofchess – or, more fittingly, the torture of Isaac. This isn't the warwe've come to expect in movies. Isaac's situation seems hopeless, andbanter with the man responsible never strikes him as a worthwhilepursuit.<br><br>The biggest issue here is that Juba seems the most interestingcharacter, and not only are we never provided a way to connectwith/hate him, we don't even get enough backstory to bond with Isaac.Plenty of obstacles are thrown at Isaac: blowing sand, lack of drinkingwater, skittles for sustenance, blazing sun/heat, radio issues, and abrutally painful knee wound courtesy of Juba. The success of the moviedepends on two things: Aaron Taylor-Johnson selling us on Isaac'spredicament, and the radio dialogue between he and Juba. The former isfine, but the latter falls short.<br><br>Better sniper movies include American Sniper and Enemy at the Gates,while more effective (mostly) one-character thrillers include Locke,Buried, and 127 Hours. The film makes excellent use of sound, but thelittle jabs at American ideals grows old quickly (such as asking who isthe real terrorist). A different approach to a familiar topic deservesa chance, but while Juba only misses on purpose, the efforts of Mr.Liman and Mr. Worrell miss the mark by not engaging the viewer with thecharacter(s).