The film Wanted is completely silly yet also completely enjoyable. If you watch the film with this in mind, you will be entertained by implausible nonsense that happens to be visually dazzling. A film that has ‘The Loom of Fate’ as the centre of the plot cannot be taken seriously; somebody shooting a bullet from seemingly the other side of a city through windows and cars USING A SNIPER SCOPE TO AIM does not suggest that the normal laws of physics and logic apply. However, when you are laughing at the delirious over-the-top nature (a non-superpowered man jumping from one skyscraper to another and shooting people in the head while doing it), you won’t care.
The film is loosely adapted from the graphic novel by Mark Millar and JG Jones. Loosely as in ‘we took the idea of nobody white-collar worker and turning him into a super assassin, but ignored the rest of the stuff about supervillains based on DC characters and the other five issues of the mini-series’. Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a non-entity with a cheating girlfriend and nothing in his life, who is rescued by Fox (Angelina Jolie) from a man trying to kill him. It turns out that Wesley is the son of a member of The Fraternity, an order of assassins who kill people selected by The Loom of Fate to maintain order in the world, and the man who tried to kill him was the man who killed his dad. Sloan (Morgan Freeman) tells him this and that he will be trained to become an assassin because Wesley has inherited the ability to bend bullets, so that he can kill his father’s murderer and become somebody.
The story is mainly an excuse for really cool set pieces: Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Night Watch and Day Watch, uses his Hollywood debut to show off his inventive visual flair. Cars twirling in mid-air in slow motion or driving into trains, bullets boring through skulls – he must have been giggling with glee at the prospect of making this stuff. The bequiffed film critic Mark Kermode suggested that Bekmambetov is the Russian Michael Bay, because of his love of explosions, but there is something of the Wachowski brothers in there as well – it looks like he’s watched The Matrix a lot. The camera whips around and flips about and slows down and goes backwards in a rollercoaster for the eyes, to distract you from your brain shouting at you, ‘The Loom of Fate? You what?’ (I think this must be some kind of obsession of Timur – it reminded me of the similarly silly Chalk of Fate in Day Watch; how did the actors say it out loud without laughing?)
McAvoy does a good American accent and handles his first lead part well. Jolie, whose arms look disturbingly thin in the poster, has a lot of fun with her role, even if she spends most of it pouting. Freeman is Freeman, just in a different role, but that’s fine by me. They all seem to know what they’re making and are having a good time doing so. This makes up for the story, which seems to appropriate Millar storytelling techniques – show the bad guys as being completely bad-ass and your hero as rather useless but, even with only six weeks of training, he is able to completely destroy them just because he is the hero. (There is also a callback to the notorious final page of the book, when McAvoy has a straight-to-camera moment, so they must be big fans.) There is a casual disregard for other people (a train crash over a bridge ignores the hundreds of deaths of innocents, despite the Fraternity’s tenet of killing one to save thousands) and the stupidity of basing an attack on using peanut butter to attract thousands of rats beggars belief. But it doesn’t really matter – you are too busy smiling at the dazzling nonsense to care.