Nice surprise! The film is adapted from a very early story outline by Mark Millar for his comic series Wanted that went off on a slightly different direction to the film, and at first that worried me.
The original blurb from Millar was bought and Hollywood started working on the film script separately to Millar developing and writing his comic story. The two stories ended up with very different plots, but both very strong stories in their own rights.
As I said before, James McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson just barely struggling through life. He has a rubbish job, a stress related health problem, a girlfriend cheating with his best friend, and no guts to deal with any of it, he just lets it slide by.
However one day he's collecting his drugs from the pharmacy and a gorgeous, although underfed, woman appears and tells him his father didn't die when he was a kid but was in fact killed just yesterday by one of the world's best assassins. Oh, and his father was one of the best assassins too.
Immediately they are attacked by this other assassin and race away with him in hot pursuit. Once they escape him the woman, an assassin called Fox and played by Angelina Jolie, takes him to a meet a group called the Fraternity. They carry out assassinations all over the world, commanded by secret text hidden within a mysterious loom that is deciphered by the head of the group, Sloan, played by Morgan Freeman.
Wesley is given the choice of joining the Fraternity, which he does, and his training begins. His aim is to hunt down and kill the man how killed his father, however the Fraternity have other things in mind for him first.
I was surprised just how good this story was, considering how much I liked the original comic book and its fantastic storyline, I wasn't sure that the film version could pull off something as interesting, but it does, and without the huge scope of the comic book.
Timur Bekmambetov directs the film superbly and imagines a world very much like ours although populated by people who can do some incredible things. It seems to be a strength of his, creating a world that we can so identify with and then stretching the reality to produce something that looks spectacular on screen.
The set pieces and stunts are quite incredible and look superb, although many of them are over the top I never felt as though I was shaking my head in disbelief, rather I was nodding my head in appreciation of what I was seeing on screen.
He has successfully made the transition from Russian film to Hollywood and in the process managed to retain some of the distinctive style that brought him to the fore of World cinema in the first place. His style and imagination is rife throughout the film, and it looks all the better for it.
The action and effects are fantastic and the ideas behind the stunts are wonderfully imagined and crafted. It definitely brings a lot of sequences to the screen that we just haven't seen before, even with the trailer focusing on the "curve the bullet" Matrix style moment.
One of the best stunts in the film, apart from the car flipping and slow motion screaming, is the entire series of train stunts, and I say series because there seems to be one after the other building in scale. This whole train piece is excellent to watch and really gets the heart pumping.
Not only are you drawn into the stunt side of the sequence, but story wise it pays off hugely when we revisit it later in the film.
I did find the shaky camera work coupled with the intense action sequences a little hard to follow and that meant that some of the impact of a few of the scenes is diminished. Oh and while I'm talking about parts I didn't like, there was that whole thread with the exploding mice…
McAvoy is very good yet again, and although it looks odd to start with hearing an American accent come out of his mouth, you're soon over that and moved on. Jolie and Freeman are strong too, with Morgan Freeman getting a few uncharacteristic moments where he shows a stronger, darker, and more action like side that we've not really seen before.
There was a great casting choice with Terence Stamp too, although I just wish they had made more use of him. Overall the casting was strong and the performances were very enjoyable.
Story wise, forgetting the big effects, stunts and stars, there has been a lot of time and care spent on the script to bring something a little more thought through than normal. There aren't Hollywood clichés filling the story here, and we're treated to a number of surprises with a couple of great twists and a superbly non-clichéd ending.
The pace of the film is kept strong throughout, and it never feels as though it totally lets up. That's helped by a good soundtrack that keeps the tension high and builds the audience up at all the right points.
I really enjoyed Wanted. It offered something refreshingly different and still delivered entertainment and action in plentiful supply. An exciting story sat behind the superb effects and stunts, making it a much richer film than the standard comic book action adaptations.
The cast was impressive, and they all performed strongly. The Russian director managed to bring some style and some special moments from the Watch series without making it a Hollywood version of the films, and he seems to have moved over to Hollywood with ease.
I also liked the way the film didn't over explain things as Hollywood films are so often tempted to do. It spent plenty of time developing the character of Wesley rather than leaping straight into the action, and this benefited the entire film.
Wanted was way better than I thought it would be, especially after I enjoyed the comic book so much and the two stories were so radically different.
You know I'm really interested to see where a sequel would go with the story considering where it left off. Although there have already been rumours, I'm wondering if they'll take it somewhere new or just repeat more of the same. Whatever the outcome for the second film, this one is exciting, entertaining and offers something a little different.