Film Review: Wanted

A series of beautiful threads woven into a patchwork fabric. Wanted in ten words
Warning: Spoilers below


This, is one of the best shots from Wanted. This, and the car chase with the red dodge viper make for some scant consolation for the rest of the movie; unfortunately, both are over before the halfway mark.

Consider the premise: Master assassins slugging it out, with the added twist (pardon the pun) of curvable bullets with effective ranges measured in miles. A producer might not be able to milk much of a plot out of that, but a high octane blood-pumping action flick should be the worst that could be done.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is Tessimond’s man in the bowler hat; a nobody trudging through life unnoticed. He’s broke, and his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. He suffers from anxiety attacks and has prescription medication. One night, he finds himself in a shootout, learns of his heritage, and soon becomes a full-fledged member of the Fraternity; an organisation of assassins that carry out kills based on a secret code weaved into cloth by a “loom of fate”. Sloan (Morgan Freeman) is the only member allowed to interpret the weavings. Gibson soon receives his orders; Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) killed his father, and is picking off the rest of the Fraternity and it’s up to Gibson to stop him.

The rising action seemed so full of promise; our protagonist is transformed by shootout, car chase, newfound ability,and massive inheritance, from weakling to a type-A personality. And here’s the first major botch. The filmmakers attempt to portray Gibson as a rounder character, and end up frustrating the audience. Through his rigourous training, we see Gibson tottering back towards despair and his old life; he’s eventually helped along by trite sayings from Sloan the father figure.

The explanation for the moral dilemma of assassination was disjointed, and encapsulated in the banal saying “kill one, save a thousand”. The training scenes were well done if one considers only the visual treat and sensual stimulation; otherwise, they seem like a gem out of place, with insufficient attention awarded them.

Gibson then seeks out Cross. He, and his mentor/partner Fox (Angelina Jolie), encounter Cross on board a train, and cause a derailment down into a ravine. Gibson learns that Cross is his real father (shocker! Can’t they remember Star Wars used it for the final time in all eternity), and that the Fraternity has deceived him. Fox attempts to carry out her orders to kill Gibson, but he manages to escape.

Here we see the I-have-a-mission-and-now-it’s-done-but-I-learn-that-the-real-enemy-is-who-I’ve-been-working-for switcheroo that’s become far too commonplace of late. By this point, the viewers realise that there’s been either too little or too much talking. The filmmakers should have either invested more time in coherence (pun unintended) to connect story elements clearly and concisely, or should have made a mind-numbing action flick. The result instead was a confusing mishmash of cool scenes and not-so-cool scenes, with poor characterisation or plot clarity.

The film climaxes with Gibson going back to take on the Fraternity, with his father’s (Cross) hidden arsenal. He faces the elite assassins and Sloan eventually, but is disarmed. Desperate, he reveals to the rest of the assassins Cross’ revelation: Sloan had seen his name listed for termination by the loom, and instead of facing death began to change the outputs of the loom. He manipulated it and the assassins for his personal benefit by hiring them out as contract killers, and tried to eliminate Cross when he was discovered. However, Sloan counters with his own secret: The names of all the assassins had already come up; if Sloan and the assassins had stuck to the Fraternity’s code, they would all be dead. He challenges the assassins to believe him, and take up their place as the shapers of history. Sloan then leaves the room, letting Gibson face the assassins.

Just as the assassins seem ready to betray their purpose and terminate Gibson, Fox curves a bullet around the room, killing all of the assassins, before finally, voluntarily taking the bullet herself. Gibson grabs a weapon and gives chases after Sloan, but fails to find him.

The final scene sees Gibson back in his office job. Sloan sneaks up to him, putting a gun to the back of his head, only to find that it’s a decoy. The movie ends as it begins, with Sloan killed by Gibson’s (formerly Cross’) gun from across the city.

The climax and denouement do have some good combat scenes; the lack is found just before. Perhaps the audience anticipates more screen time of Gibson in torment over running or fighting, and his subsequent detailed preparations. Instead, he plunges almost immediately into an attack on the Fraternity, leaving viewers with no time to think, at the one point in the film where it’s required.

One other gripe is the use of profanity in the film. It adds little effect, either in emphasis or humour, but comes out sounding forced instead. The filmmakers might have been trying to add realism, but end up falling flat (most of the time) and adding little comedic value. Profanity reflects a lack of vocabulary, and in this industry it reflects poorly on the filmmakers ability in characterisation.

In short, Wanted is a film that had a good premise but poor execution. It fails to be either a though-provoking psychological thriller or an explosive action flick; the producers couldn’t decide on a balance between action and talk, and ended up with a disjointed, if not confusing, piece, albeit with some flashes of brilliance. 2.5 stars, see it if you want to watch a film and there’s nothing else showing.

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