Wanted

Wanted

*****

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

In terms of awesome per second, Wanted just set a new record. While the trailers do their best to sell it as a brainless action flick with CGI substituting for plot, in truth it's as smart as it is spectacular. Well acted, engaging and occasionally witty, Wanted's greatest asset is director Timur Bekmambetov's comprehensive understanding of how to construct an action movie. The film is extremely well structured, and while it's built largely from familiar tropes they're somehow made to seem fresh and exciting.

James McAvoy excels in his portrayal of Wesley Gibson, a downtrodden office worker who suddenly finds himself flung headlong into a world of heart-pounding action and ultra-violence. The scene where a voluptuous assassin named Fox (Angelina Jolie) confronts Gibson with his destiny and whisks him off to his new life features one of the best car chases in recent memory. Taken to the headquarters of a cadre of killers, Gibson learns that his father was once a member of this exclusive group, called The Fraternity, and that he was possessed of certain superhuman powers which he has passed on to his son, including lightning-quick reactions and the ability to fire bullets in curving trajectories. The leader of the group, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), informs Gibson that his father was murdered by a member turned rogue, and offers the mild-mannered accountant the opportunity to step into his father's shoes, avenge his death, and inherit his fabulous wealth and glamorous lifestyle. Also Fox keeps giving him the eye. Does he return to his old job? Only long enough to tell his boss where to shove it and beat his cuckolding co-worker across the face with his keyboard.

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So of course there's a training montage, and a couple of plot twists as we discover that All Is Not As It Seems. At this point one could be forgiven for drawing comparisons to The Matrix: lowly office worker plucked from humdrum existence, tempted by unfeasibly attractive and deadly female into joining band of killers headed by kindly father figure, things explode and go upside-down and many tons of ammunition are expended. Wanted triumphs over The Matrix in several key areas, however. The plot, while requiring copious suspension of disbelief, is at least somewhat coherent. While we're asked to simply accept that Neo is The Chosen One because the writers say he is, Wanted at least provides a credible reason why only this particular man can perform the task that's asked of him. The direction of action is simply in a different class. Bekmambetov uses CGI to extend the scope of his imagination rather than to make up for the lack of one. Thirdly, while the message of The Matrix is muffled by tiresome solipsism, Wanted's appeal to wake up to one's own potential rings loud and clear.

There's also the small matter of acting. McAvoy really shines here, and while Jolie isn't given terribly much to do, she handles her role with subtlety and restraint. Morgan Freeman remains, as ever, Morgan Freeman. The ending follows the classic formula of sub-boss battle, climactic showdown, final conclusion, and while each of these is set up earlier in the film, they're all resolved in a fashion which is satisfying without being entirely predictable. Like I said earlier: we've seen these tropes before, but they're used as tools rather than crutches. Masterly.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2008
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Comic adaptation about an ordinary young man who becomes an elite agent of justice.
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Scott Macdonald ****

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writer: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas

Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Kristen Hager, Marc Warren, David O'Hara

Year: 2008

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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