Produced by Jim Lemley, Jason Netter, Marc E Platt, Iain Smith
Cast: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas
Timur Bekmanbetov is the acclaimed director responsible for Russia’s first supernatural horror thrillers, the spectacular trilogy Night Watch, Day Watch and Twilight Watch – the latter not yet completed. In Wanted he directs his first American film. There are similar elements of forces for good and evil pitted against one another with an ancient tradition, though these are not supernatural beings. They’re uber-cool, ultra-violent assassins in graphic novel mode. So leave the brain at home for this and don't look for much reality, beyond the opening scenes.
They call themselves The Fraternity and they have their roots in a Guild of Weavers from a thousand years ago who find coded messages in the warp and weft of woven fabrics. A vigilante group pledged to rid the world of people it’s better off without, these highly trained assassins are headed by Sloan (Morgan Freeman). The Code they adhere to with righteous dedication comes mysteriously from the Loom of Fate. ‘Kill one and maybe save a thousand.’
The action is slick and exciting enough to have you tense in your seat as one adrenalin charged scene follows another. One particularly heart-stopping sequence has two assassins, one of them Angelina Jolie, completely still and focused on a target visible through a window only for long enough to squeeze the trigger. They’re atop a fast moving train at the time. Slo-mo bullet-time takes on new aspects in sophisticated long-range weaponry. An astonishingly flexible aspect of bullet trajectories is a revelation, demonstrated with no compromises and no room for error. Bekmanbetov’s love of fast car chases with vehicles tumbling in aerial acrobatics while guns blaze is evident. Grimy city buildings and Chicago’s elevated railway figure as a decaying backdrop of much of the action.
But the film opens in a bland rabbit warren of office cubicles where an unlikely lead character, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) bemoans a less than satisfactory life. His girl friend is cheating on him with his best friend, his boss is a tyrannical bully and he suffers from anxiety attacks. He’s a mouse in the position of account manager who, when he Googles his own name, gets ‘No results’. When a strikingly beautiful woman called Fox (Jolie) intervenes in time to prevent his assassination in a city drugstore, his life changes in a hail of gunfire. The Fraternity wants him to avenge the death of his father, who was one of them. The blood of a killer apparently runs in Wesley’s veins.
There’s a deal of restrained humour which prevents the film taking itself too seriously and it’s based in deft characterization and nicely nuanced acting. Gibson’s character arc keeps pace with plot structure. His training with The Fraternity is brutal and McAvoy makes his transformation believable. The premise of standing up for yourself and becoming all you can be is solid.
Nothing is what it seems and plot reversals take the film to another level involving betrayals and revenge. Some images will stay with you: Fox emerging naked, tattoos glistening on her back, from a healing bath the Fraternity members use to speed up recovery from their many injuries; the ingenious use of rats and peanut butter, and of course, those curved bullet trajectories.
© Avril Carruthers 24th July 2008
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