Wesley Allan Gibson (James McAvoy) is a bit of a loser, to put it mildly; broke, working a soul-deadening job and too wimpy to confront his friend about regularly boinking his girlfriend behind his back. To his considerable surprise, he suddenly and violently gets drafted into a fraternity of assassins for paternal reasons. He didn’t know his father when he was growing up, but he turns out to have inherited dad’s ability to speed up his heartbeat, allowing him to experience time as if things around him are happening in slow motion. This device is used to great aesthetic effect throughout the movie, by showing the most outrageous action scenes at a crawl, giving the viewer a chance to chuckle at the fantastic absurdity of it all. The ‘cool’ dial is cranked up all the way to eleven. It almost makes you overlook the complete lack of stealth in the approach of the assassins, who are causing merry mayhem and riding around on metro trains without any regard for witnesses and security cameras.
Wanted is definitely a case of style over substance, but puts up such a strong, full frontal assault of it that you are likely to give in. You will smile as a car bowls over a bus and then drives off the side of it. And you will shake your head appreciatively when a lethal bullet is followed backwards in time across a cityscape to land in the gun that fired it. Winning the gold medallion of ‘cool’ in this movie is Angelina Jolie. I am far on the gay end of the Kinsey scale, but seeing her in this movie made me slide considerably towards the middle. She is ridiculously sexy, gliding across the screen in supreme femme fatale mode.
The phrase that kept going through my mind while watching Wanted was ‘collateral damage’. The killers in this movie operate under the philosophy that by taking one specific life they are presumably saving many others. But they are not too concerned with the lives of any number of bystanders when the bullets and cars start flying. Even the good guys have landed a fair amount of innocents in the morgue by the time the end credits roll, and none of those who survived seem too concerned about that. Death is also being dealt to characters who simply seem misguided, without giving them a chance to reassess their situation. This is understandable in a movie that needs slow motion gunfights and therefore cannon fodder, but it makes the killing seem completely random for the most part.
The movie was based on a graphic novel written by Mark Millar. He has said he will not be writing a sequel to Wanted in comic book form, but one or more sequels are sure to hit the movie theatres, hopefully bringing back its few surviving assets.
Wanted, 2008. 110 min. Director: Timur Bekmambetov. Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman.