How can a movie about assassins be so... inspiring?
Meet Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a cube-dwelling drone at a dull job, with a hideous boss, a nagging girlfriend who is cheating on him with his meathead best friend, a persistent panic disorder, and a shamefully low balance in his checking account. In short, his life is going nowhere fast, but that is all about to change when the gorgeous Fox (Angelina Jolie) comes crashing into his life with an urgent message: Wes actually belongs in an ancient league of assassins known as The Fraternity lead up by Sloan (Morgan Freeman), and he is the only one who can avenge his father's recent murder. But does mild-mannered Wes actually have what it takes to kill?
At a press day last year for Starter for Ten, star James McAvoy (Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) -- who was just about to go to Prague to start shooting Wanted -- called its director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch) an "evil genius," and after seeing Wanted it's easy to tell why. Wanted is an unbelievably fast-paced, hardcore action thriller that is like the movie equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the heart. Bekmambetov shot the hell out of Chicago, doing a perfect job capturing what it is like to be a twenty-something office drone slave and then having his characters to run amok in the city, positively tearing it up with the benefit of some almost seamlessly integrated green screen technology and plain old-fashioned, jaw-dropping stunts.
But most dazzling is his inventive and super-cool use of effects -- from slow-mo CGI shots of glass breaking as a character crashes through it to bullets reassembling and spinning in reverse. The action in Wanted definitely has a video game element to it (Bekmambetov credits the medium as an influence to his style), and elements of both the story and the fight sequences bear more than a passing resemblance to The Matrix, but whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is it just plain old looks cool.
Another thing about Wanted, of course, is its big name cast. Jolie (A Mighty Heart, Beowulf) heads up the lot, and she is as usual a stunningly beautiful (if slightly too thin) bad-ass, with a dedication to The Fraternity almost as inspiring as her moves are poetic. However, as hard as she may be to take your eyes off of, the story is without question Wes's, and McAvoy, who has been best known for costume dramas and Oscar-bait dramas thus far, does not disappoint in his foray into the dark side. He is believable as both a down-trodden white-collar slave he starts off as, and as the killing machine he becomes, and it is to his credit that you root for him on both ends of the spectrum.
Although based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones, Wanted's script (by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Chris Morgan) differs significantly from the source material. And while I can't comment on how fans of the novel are going to feel about where Wanted took the story, I can tell you that it sure was a fun ride for me.