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WANTED

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Angelina Jolie
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: December 2, 2008

“This is me taking back control of my life…what the f*ck have you done lately?”

Film ****

Among the movies released this past summer, I was anticipating two the most. One was The Dark Knight, along with everyone on the planet. The second was Wanted, only because the trailer for the movie astonished me beyond words.

Much to my surprise, the movie managed to exceed my already high expectations, which is a very rare case for any moviegoer. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, director of cult horror movies Night Watch and Day Watch, has made one of the most invigorating action movie spectacles I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

The film comes from the pages of the popular graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, and it takes major liberties with the original story, for understandable reasons. The graphic novel, which I read and finished a week before the movie came out, depicted a worldwide team of supervillains who banded together to wipe out all the superheroes in existence. It was graphic in every sense of the word, and the good guys were at times even more despicable than the bad ones.

In transforming this story for a mainstream movie, the secret society of villains has been changed to a secret organization of assassins. This change in story may not please devoted fans of the graphic novel, which is a brilliant piece of work. However, if one planned on making a movie that was a hundred percent true to the graphic novel, they’d be lucky get both distribution and anything below an NC-17 rating. 

But screenwriters Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan have crafted a big screen version that’s every bit as enthralling as the graphic novel. One could argue that it borrows a bit from both Fight Club and The Matrix, but it uses those inspirations to become its own riveting hero origin story. And like The Matrix did, Wanted delivers some amazingly original effects work and action set pieces that are borderline poetic.

The story follows Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), an average Joe who lives a miserable existence. Working as an accountant, he suffers daily bullying from a nightmarish boss. As if that wasn’t enough, he happens to have a lousy girlfriend, who is cheating on him with his own best friend.

But Wesley’s life takes a turn for the unexpected when he meets the luminous assassin, Fox (Angelina Jolie) at about the same moment a man comes gunning for him at a grocery store. After an intense gunfight and high speed chase, she saves his life. Wesley then finds himself in a mysterious factory location, where Fox reveals herself to be part of a secret group of assassins known as The Fraternity.

The organization is run by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) who informs Wesley that he happens to be the son of the world’s greatest living assassin, said to have been gunned down by the same man gunning for Wesley the night before. Not only that, but Wesley himself happens to have a specific gift. Following some extensive brutal training, this gift will allow him to become every bit the lethal assassin his father was…maybe even better!

What lies ahead for the viewer is a plot filled with knockout action and more than one surprising story twist, which I won’t dare reveal. But by the end of the movie, you will have seen bullets maneuver in ways never imagined, the best use of a computer keyboard ever, a train getting derailed in the worst possible way, rats armed with time bombs, a phenomenal climatic shootout that rivals The Matrix and Morgan Freeman delivering the single best line of dialogue in any movie this year. You’ll know when you hear it!

The entire cast here is superb, which is a quality you don’t normally get from a massive action movie such as this. But the movie is really a breakthrough showcase for Scottish actor James McAvoy, who is absolutely terrific in the lead role of Wesley. McAvoy brings a level of humility to the character so that you believe he is a weakling, but by the end of the movie you will believe him as a gun-toting badass!

Wanted is a glorious action spectacle for the ages. Not many movies can pull off being a pure adrenaline rush of action while telling an enthralling story which, despite its inspirations, is original in its own right. Without question the year’s best action offering!

Video ****

Universal doesn’t fail one bit with this incredible looking presentation. The anamorphic picture dazzles in quality right from the beginning, and doesn’t slow down one bit from that point. The many visual effects look downright amazing. The image quality is nothing but remarkably sharp detail, with fantastic colors to boot. A visually engaging presentation to match one visually engaging movie!

Audio ****

Though we’re not quite done with the year, there’s no doubt whatsoever that the 5.1 mix on this release will end up in the best sound category at this year’s DMC Awards. This is one big and ferocious piece of digital sound, where everything from dialogue to music score to, of course, action gets the best possible treatment one could ever ask for. That final shootout in the factory has got to be one of the best sequences I’ve ever experienced on DVD, and that’s a fact!

Features ***1/2

Splendid extras find their way onto this 2-Disc release from Universal. All features are located on Disc Two, among them an Extended Scene, multiple featurettes including “Special Effects: The Art Of The Impossible”, “Cast And Characters”, “Stunts On The L Train”, “Wanted: Motion Comics”, “Groundbreaking Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution”, “Through the Eyes of Visionary Director Timur Bekmambetov”, “The Making of Wanted: The Video Game” (can’t wait to play it) and a music video mash-up of Danny Elfman’s rockin’ song from the movie, “The Little Things”.

Summary:

Wanted is a brilliant piece of cinematic adrenaline, a title that is rarely achieved. In terms of over-the-top gun blazing action, no other movie tops this in 2008…or any recent year, for that matter. It also marks one of the most amazing DVD presentations you will ever experience!

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