Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wanted - Review

*** This discussion contains spoilers. ***

It is hard to know where to start with this discussion of Wanted as I was so totally blown away by how awesome this movie is. I am totally serious when I say that this type of movie just reminds me of why I love cinema so much. Suspend your disbelief for 120 minutes and sit back and watch the most amazing visuals you are likely to see on screen this year, video game included.

Generally speaking movies like this don't exactly live or die by their storylines and this film is no different. We all know from the ads that this movie is being sold on the promise of amazing action and the presence of Angelina Jolie. The plot concerns a secret society of assassins, The Fraternity who use assassination as a means of keeping humanity in check. When one of there number turns renegade the group recruit Wesley (McAvoy) the son of a fallen Fraternity member to avenge his fathers death and kill the renegade assassin. The story is better than I thought and it does a good job of providing plenty of scope for those promised action set pieces. The most pleasant aspect of the story is that it isn't as predicable as you might expect, at least it wasn't for me.

Simply put this is the best action movie of the year thus far. Perhaps a little disclaimer is warranted though, as you will need to check your cynicism at the door. If you like your action realistic then stick with Jason Bourne as the action in this movie harks back to it's comic book origins. Right from the first scene the action is in high gear as we get the Fraternity's top assassin jump from one skyscraper to another, shooting bad guys on the way. This is a film that doesn't try to hide from is silliness, rather it embraces and runs with it. The action does let up as we are introduced to McAvoy in a sequence that reminded me very much of Fight Club. The action soon kicks into high gear again and never lets up.

Of course we have seen plenty of action movies in recent years with tons and tons of action, like Die Hard 4.0 for instance. What sets Wanted apart from the crowd is the inventiveness of the set pieces and the unique visual touches. Indeed, the keyword for Wanted is inventiveness. We've all seen drive-by shootings, but have we seen one where a one car is flipped over the other so the shooter can shoot though the open sunroof to bypass the bullet proof glass? There is the breathtaking set piece with a train/car/bridge mashup. There is a refreshing disregard for the safety of innocent bystanders too, just check out the aforementioned train sequence for proof. The violence is also pretty graphic for a mainstream blockbuster, with a rather large helping of onscreen blood. To counter the graphic nature of the violence the film also boasts some strong humorous moments. A personal favourite is the scene where McAvoy smashes a keyboard over his friends face only for the keys 'F','U','C','K','Y','O','U' to fly past the screen. Or the running joke about 'who's the man?' that has a wonderful payoff, with Jolie at her absolute sexiest.

The actors in this movie are all extremely well cast and deliver top performances. Angelina Jolie may be third billed but she steals the show in every scene she is in. This is the best performance I've seen her give in any of her big action roles. She manages to portray a mix of uber cool, sexiness and menace with consummate ease. You will wish she had more screen time. This is the first movie I've seen James McAvoy in and he certainly showed here that he has real star potential. His character starts off as a pathetic, whinging nobody but ends up as a super cool, confident and extremely dangerous killer. Probably not the easiest character arc to pull off but McAvoy manages it convincingly as he does with the more physical set pieces. The real star of the piece however is Russian director Timur Bekmambetov. I remember seeing his Russian language film Nightwatch a few years ago and being amazed by it. It was like a Matrix meets Underworld hybrid and the story was as confusing as that sounds but the inventiveness of the action scenes is what amazed. In Wanted he has managed to meld his visual flourishes with a Hollywood blockbuster budget to bring us something special. I can't think of any director currently working in Hollywood (possibly bar Guillermo del Toro) that has such style.

The soundtrack in th movie is another thing that I was highly impressed by. The rock style songs that they went with match up perfectly with the onscreen action beats and helps to build the excitement level higher for the audience. I must mention the best use of the song 'Time to Say Goodbye' yet seen on film. In fact I was so taken with the title track, 'The Little Things' that I want to buy it, so I Google'd the song. I was stunned to discover that Danny Elfman provided the music to this movie. Everyone knows Elfman as Tim Burtonsgo to guy for his movies, or as the creator of The Simpsons theme tune but I never associated him with a rock sound. Furthermore, it is Elfman himself who lends his vocals to the title track. Surprised is not the word, although I have learned that he provided the singing vocals for Jack Skellington so perhaps I shouldn't have been. I think I'll be taking a trip to the iTunes store later today.

I said already that this is the best action movie of 2008. I would go as far as to say it is the best since The Matrix. I do not like to make a lazy comparison to The Matrix but it surely owes a debt to that film in there use of slowing down time but understand that Wanted is no mere copycat. It doesn't do just want has been done before, it takes everything to a new level. Having given it all this praise I do want this movie to be a one-off. I don't want a sequel, for it can only diminish what has been created in this film. Also I don't want to see a poor licensed video game as no console could do this game justice. If you like action, humour and want to see a director with new ideas then check out Wanted as soon as possible. Oh, and the last line's a killer.


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