“Wanted”: What have you done this week?

Fates trail of destruction.

Fates trail of destruction.

In any comic book super hero movie, and Wanted is a type of comic book super hero movie, there has to be that one moment in which your understanding of the main character, here Wesley Gibson played by James McAvoy, suddenly becomes a deeper understanding of yourself. This movie or comic book isn’t just about Peter Parker, or Bruce Wayne, or Bruce Banner, or Neo – it’s about me…it’s about the audience member sitting next to me.

There comes a point in Wanted where I had that moment. When Wesley has met the fist end of Angelina Jolie’s, here the beautiful Fox’s, arm a few too many times, and his face is dripping blood and he can hardly breath much less speak, he finally has the courage to utter the honest words to her question “Why did you come here?”. A moment that sent chills up my spine. A moment that for Wesley, who has been beaten down by every aspect of his life and can’t fight anymore, decides to open up and be vulnerable. It is also the answer any cult waits for so they can pounce.

For most movie goers Timur Bekmambetov’s new hopelessly, giddily violent take on the assassin’s creed story will be just a another crazy fun night at the movies, for me it became the most inspiring film I think I may see this year.

Timur Bekmambetov is the Kazhak director of those vampire-esque, visual whirlwind fantasy/horror movies called Night Watch and Day Watch. Even if you don’t understand the mythology and story of these films it’s a thrill to watch them (notice the subtitles…very cool), and as director of Wanted he brings with him that same jazzed up anything can happen (and usually does) mentality. That’s right, because anything can happen, you have no idea what will happen.

And the only reason this movie works is because it sticks to the insane rules it creates. If it didn’t it would be one silly hard to swallow movie.

You see Wesley is the son of a famous assassin (famous only to assassins) and like his Father he has certain abilities that make him perfect for the job. The job being to kill the man that killed his Father. The Fraternity rescues him. The Fraternity is a fancy name for a group of killers that have taken it upon themselves to be first class assassins for a higher cause. I leave that higher cause for you to discover, but it delves into Greek Mythologies that I wasn’t expecting to see in a crazy violent movie. The Fraternity consists of Fox (Jolie), Sloan (a wonderful Morgan Freeman) and many other actors with one named characters.

A lot of the intellectual coollness is thanks to comic book scribe Mark Millar (whose Kick-Ass I’m currently reading, but you don’t have to because it’s being adapted into a movie as well.)

Wanted is a hero’s journey. A vibrantly violent hero’s journey. One that knows when to take joy in it’s violence but also knows when to effect you emotionally with it. One that is so stylized and driven that you leave the theatre wanting to vault over a moving car…though I would suggest against it, my hip still hurts.

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7 Responses to ““Wanted”: What have you done this week?”

  1. James Says:

    Interesting post…maybe I’ll have to check this movie out. I was on the fence about seeing it or not, despite the Starpower, but I keep hearing good reports. Thanks for the post!

  2. Flor Says:

    really? *Really??* This is the first positive review I’ve read at all about this movie. I saw it with a friend and she is such a huge Jolie fan that she loved it… let me amend, she luurved it. I…did not.

    The acting was mediocre, the story was derivative as well as implausible (these are most unsubtle assassins EVAR) and the predictability was overwhelming. The only solution the movie offers to life’s little boots to the head is bashing each obstacle with the nearest handy object. Even Morgan Freeman looked like he needed someone off screen reminding him how much he was putting in the bank to keep going.

    I’m genuinely shocked.

  3. Phillip Says:

    Flor, Good! I’m glad you had such a negative response to the film. Here’s why.

    Because it wasn’t afraid to be bold with it’s decisions. It wasn’t afraid to take what it wanted to be and be 100% of that. Like in Hong Kong cinema, the style is the substance. There was a kinetic poetry to the action. And the only way it could have been accomplished was by being so exaggerated and unbelievable. The scene in the train car that was wedged between the cliff faces had a spiritual and almost serene feel to it. It completely contrasted the action leading up to it. The fall to the water below was cleansing for the character who like many other characters before was on his “hero’s journey”.

    Implausible, sure! Derivative, yes! I’ll agree with both of these sentiments.

    Everything is derivative. The best movies in cinema are many times culled together from other movies. From “Kill Bill” to “Batman”, they are all stories we’ve seen before – sometimes almost plagiarized in their storytelling and directing. But how well does the new movie stick to it’s guns (honestly no pun intended). It’s own sense of visceral and visual play. A movie like “Gone in Sixty Seconds” doesn’t even attempt to try to play outside of the safety zone – I would truly call that movie derivative, predictable and cliche. “Wanted” however did stick to it’s guns and as you can see to polarizing effects. That only means it didn’t back down from it’s own vision and wasn’t afraid of going for it.

    As for implausible. It’s sticks to it’s own set of rules. That’s all I ask from a movie. These are super heroes and villains, just as in “Hancock” or “Spiderman”. They have a super human gift to essentially focus and in that focus manipulate their energy.

    And actually, to me it wasn’t about beating people any time they get in your way, like “Fight Club” there’s a little more going on. There whole way of life is brought down when they realize how they’ve been tricked. There’s a reason why their names came up, because the actions they take, in fact cause far to great a causalities. Fox’s choice to ram a car into the side of a train led to the death of countless people…her name came up and no one took care of it. Whether you agree with it or not, the sentiment is follow the rules of fate, breaking those rules is bad. Following fate and taking control of one’s life it seems can go hand and hand in this world.

    By no means did I think the film was brilliant, but it’s a bold film and it’s a fun film. And it doesn’t have to be a work of art to be either. Luurved though? I’m not sure I agree with that sentiment either. Though I’m glad you didn’t like it, and am not shocked in the least that people don’t. Nothing wrong with that.

  4. Flor Says:

    But it didn’t make sense for the assassins to be so convinced of the good they did that they didn’t spare a thought for the innocent bystanders they mowed down along the way – unless of course it was one of their own. It didn’t make sense that they operated for 1000 years within their own bylaws and were never noticed or challenged until now – despite the willingness to go for showy murders over orchestrated accidents (haven’t they ever heard of poison?). And they never, not once at least investigated the life they had just extinguished? In the end they found that the one person they trusted was the one they shouldn’t, however the matter was resolved by…taking his word for it?!

    What have I done this week? I’ve questioned authority. I’ve thought for myself. Intensity of action and consequence simply doesn’t make up for a terrible story. If WANTED had meant to be a play between fate and independence (and if I squint really hard and turn my head a bit I can almost see that) it’s very difficult to see how it was consistent within its rules. The guy who broke the rules and was perhaps doomed to death for it…didn’t die. (Perhaps he wasn’t doomed, we only have the bad guy’s word for it, same as with the other assassins.) Instead it’s this mix of the purity and poetry of fate – but only if you accept it – and the flash and ideal of freedom – but only if you seize it. The thing is, I have to shoe-horn my appreciation for these abstractions into the movie and just let all the extra sturm und drang fly about the edges of the screen. In the end it was poorly executed.

  5. Phillip Says:

    That’s exactly what happened though. Sloan made up the kill on the one who found out what was really going on.

    As I made my comparison in the original post, The Fraternity is less an assassins group and more a cult. It finally feels McAvoy’s character is ready when he says exactly what a cult wants to hear, “I don’t know who I am.” Anybody who enters into the walls of one of those compounds can surely be lied to for a thousand years, because it’s all they believe to be true. Catholicism had twisted the word of god in the dark ages for much longer than a thousand. Don’t overestimate the flock mentality that humanity many times falls into and that allows them to be easily led down the wrong path (All of Germany? Really??). Fox though believed in the true form of their discipline, through personal experience, which is what led her to make the decision she made in the end.

    Now the question is did Wesley’s name really end up on the list? I think it was very much the same situation that his Father ended up in.

  6. Phillip Says:

    One other quick thing, if you’ve never had a problem standing up for who you are or what you believe in then this movie may not be for you. For me it was a nice reminder to keep kicking butt (metaphorically speaking). It taps into the same fight the effect of the system mentality that drove “The Matrix” into our culture, though “Wanted” is a lesser film…yes, derivative.

  7. Alex Says:

    Well well. I am in Mexico, and when I came out of the theater all I heard from people coming out was “I liked it!”. It had a tone of “It was crazy, and it is hard to know if anyone actually did, but I did like it!”.

    Interesting plot and a great execution. I loved the movie because first it was very entertaining, and second the message lives through the whole movie.

    I don’t agree with Flor’s review simply because the base of the argument lies in the script and plot when there is much more to a movie than just that. Sure, it is probably the thing that weighs the most when evaluating a movie but if you are going to criticize the movie standing on the real world with real life rules you will end up nowhere.

    The movie as Phillip says, has it’s own rules. The world created has them too and they are the same. Most of Flor’s arguments are something the likes of “I hated Superman! I mean, come on! A guy that can fly? That is impossible!”.

    And since I go to the movies to be entertained, I loved it. Most of all because I think in today’s world we set our own limits too short and most of the times we are afraid to do what we really want to do in any scenario, that being personal, professional and even in our relationships.

    So for that… and the Keyboard to the face, and to the “What the hell have you done this week?”…. great movie.

    Still, good reviews by you two and nice website.

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