Downtrodden, unassuming bachelor Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is plucked out his humdrum little life by the mysterious Fox (Angelina Jolie) who takes him to the headquarters of The Fraternity to meet main man Sloan (Morgan Freeman). After a bruising indoctrination, Wesley learns about the origins and 1,000 year old traditions of The Fraternity, a secret group of assassins whose trade as weavers enables them to read hidden clues in cloth to determine their targets. Told about his father's killer, a rogue Fraternity member, Wesley - with his father's special genes and skills that have lain dormant - is sent off to kill the man who killed his father. But there is something Sloan isn't telling him.
Review by Louise Keller:
Let your instincts guide you, Morgan Freeman's immaculately dressed Sloan tells James McAvoy's newly recruited assassin as the novice shoots wings off flies and perfects the curved trajectory of a speeding bullet that finds its way around a preliminary target. Watching Timur Bekmambetov's frenetically action-packed thriller with the devastatingly beautiful Angelina Jolie as the tattooed, lethal assassin tutor in full flight, is quite a trip. We enter a heightened reality in which there's a transformation from nerd to killer, a mystical a language in thread and an upside down world when fate spits out names to balance a chaotic world. Guilty pleasure or ripping escapism, it's a wild explosion of a film that rides high on its extravagant script and blows us away by its surreal action scenes.
When we meet McAvoy's nerdy Wesley Allan Gibson, we learn he doesn't care much about anything - especially himself. With a fat, overbearing female boss who torments him with an oversize stapler, a whingeing, unfaithful girlfriend, a ratbag of a best friend who is making his whingeing girlfriend unfaithful and a zero bank account to boot, it is no wonder that Wesley is empowered when involved in a shooting spree that begins one night in a convenience store. Jolie's sexy Fox with a manic look in her huge, almond, black-rimmed eyes shoots to kill as she reclines on the bonnet of a speeding red sports car careering along the highway. Wesley's induction into The Fraternity is a bloody affair in which fists, knives and guns play a violent part. There's on-the-job-training (with Fox) on the roof of a speeding train, and the comfort of the Recovery Room - a heated sunken wax bath - which miraculously speeds recovery. (I want one of those!)
The stunts are drop-jaw material, but the most spectacular comes in the East European countryside, when a car smashes into a train as it crosses a single-lane bridge over a ravine, while bullets are dodged and lodged and certain death lurks on the precipice below. McAvoy is as good here as he was in The Last King of England (and that is really showering praise), while Jolie is the ultimate temptress, bewitching at every turn. Freeman brings gravitas to his pivotal role and it's always a pleasure to see Terence Stamp in a role that suits. But just as we think we know where everything is heading, Bekmambetov pulls the intricately woven rug from beneath our feet and we are left scrambling, heads spinning. This is great escapist fun, executed to perfection and wants to be wanted.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When one of the planet's most intelligent and beautiful actresses takes a role in an action thriller, you know something's up. What's up is filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov; this crazy Russian has stormed the sound stage and ripped up the rules just as others like the Wachowsky brothers have done before him. Bekmambetov owes much to the brothers, but he has upped the ante with story and characters. If you can imagine that . . .
Even though he's working from a script by others, he has injected his own fascinations into the film's narrative, suggesting that the ongoing conflict that drives The Fraternity to assassinate targeted individuals is motivated by a universal need for balance. This is the theme behind his tow calling card films, Night Watch and Day Watch, whose twist on the vampire movie - and his visually exciting treatment - made Hollywood take notice.
Wanted is a virus of a movie, infecting the audience with its irresistible thrills as the nerdy hero morphs into a spectacular killing machine, through a tortuous training scheme that would kill most of us - but for the milky and mysterious bath that sets into ice-sheet like pieces as it rapidly heals wounds. This is just one of the many inventions that propel the film through its jarring action and relentless risk taking by almost all the characters.
James McAvoy must have thought he was dreaming or the butt of a bad joke by his management when he read the script and saw his character. Indeed, the film labours the point early on about what a wuss he is to the edge of repetitious boredom, finally moving on just as we reach exasperation point. McAvoy makes the transition with a credible performance and considering that none of the film is at all credible on a sane level, this is quite a feat. Angelina Jolie shows us her three major assets: intelligence, acting chops and beauty. Morgan Freeman ... well, Morgan is Morgan, sage, controlled and likeable. But here he adds a steely aspect that works well against his screen persona.
Endlessly exciting, dramatically satisfying and entertainingly mindless, Wanted is superior fun.
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CAST: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Kristen Hager, Marc Warren, David O'Hara, Konstantin Khabensky, Dato Bakhdatze
DIRECTOR: Timur Bekmambetov
SCRIPT: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan (comics by Mark Millar, J. G. Jones)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mitchell Amundsen
EDITOR: David Brenner
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Myhre
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2008