Low budget The Wall has high payoff for Aaron Taylor-Johnson

By Jim Slotek

LOS ANGELES - It’s said that the only movies theatres have on offer these days have budgets of $200 million ones or $2 million.

The Wall, by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) – and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson – is one of the latter (produced by Amazon, which is another aspect of the “new Hollywood,” in which ‘Net movie providers like Netflix and Amazon step in where studios are backing off).

The film is a claustrophic war story, in which Taylor-Johnson plays an injured soldier, trapped behind a wall, while a skilled Iraqi sniper (Laith Nakli) plays cat-and-mouse with him.

Taylor-Johnson in The Wall

Taylor-Johnson in The Wall

Taylor-Johnson, whose awards-season turn in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals won him a Golden Globe, told us about The Wall while promoting that movie.

“I guess it shows there is no connection between the budget and the enjoyability of the experience,” said Taylor-Johnson, whose mega-budget experience includes the role of Quicksilver in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. “The Wall was done for completely next to nothing, but it was the greatest experience I’ve had in a long time.

“It’s about the journey I go on as an actor. I want to learn from a great filmmaker and push myself as an actor by being puppeteered, almost.”

The British-born Taylor-Johnson - who lives in L.A. these days with his wife, the director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Fifty Shades Of Grey) and their two children - says he restricts himself to a movie a year, the better to devote time to his family.

It also allows him to be choosy about movies like The Wall, and the experience they offer.

“This one’s original material, not based on anything. An American soldier, clearly struggling with PTSD, and he’s pinned against the wall through the entire movie. He can escape, survive or kill this guy.

“But they have this beautiful radio signal communication. It’s a psychological thriller, really.

“It just felt like my co-star was Doug Liman or the camera, depending on how you look at it. “It was one camera against the wall. And it was a lot of me. It was intense – a 14-day shoot, in one location out in the Mojave desert.”

Meanwhile, Amazon isn't alone going to war this month. Netflix will be rolling out a limited theatrical release of War Machine next week. Set in Afghanistan, it stars Brad Pitt in a story based on the war-within-a-war waged by Gen. Stanley McChrystal (the career warrior who was fired by President Obama after giving a too-frank interview to Rolling Stone magazine.

In both cases, the movies are merely dipping their toes in the theatres for awards consideration and a few box office dollars. They'll be headed to Amazon and Netflix' prime services where the bulk of viewership will come from subscribers.

The Wall. Directed by Doug Liman, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, , John Cena and Laith Nakli, now playing at the Cineplex Yonge/Dundas, and select other theatres.

Jim Slotek is a former Toronto Sun columnist, movie critic, TV critic and comedy beat reporter. He’s been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special (the NHL Awards). Prior to the Sun, he worked at the Ottawa Citizen as an entertainment reporter.