Thursday, September 20 , 2018, 11:14 pm | Fog/Mist 62º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Wanted’

The violent film hints of hell and shows how far we could go in destructive behavior toward one another.

1 Star — Degrading

The violence presented in Timur Bekmambetov’s film Wanted is overwhelming. Using the latest in special effects and melding it to the oldest of cardinal sins — murder, greed, lust and deceit — the audience is given a taste of what hell may possibly be like.

The demonic figure in this realm is Sloan (Morgan Freeman). Using his distinguished presence to garner trust, Sloan is the leader of a group of assassins whose ancestors have been at this work for 1,000 years.

Their cause is based on a belief that they have discovered a secret code whereby fate reveals to them the names of humans who need to be killed for the good of humanity. Using a binary code found within fabric, the assassins are weavers who have perfected their skills in weaving and killing. How they have concluded that these names are people who need to be assassinated rather than befriended is never explained, but the effect of their mission is devastating on all of them.

It is understandable then that there is trouble in their fraternity. A former member of their elite group is killing them one by one. Appropriately nicknamed Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), his crucible is unstoppable. Their only hope is to recruit a young man who was born into the fraternity but whose father wanted a different life for him. Believing he has what it takes to kill Cross, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is recruited by the only woman assassin, Fox (Angelina Jolie).

A troubled account manager who works in a cubicle and takes medication for his “anxiety attacks,” Wesley has no idea who he really is since his father abandoned him when he was young. When Fox appears one day and entices him to join their group, his life changes. Given millions of dollars as an incentive, Wesley soon finds himself deep within the weaver’s looming factory being beaten into murderous form.

We won’t spoil the action that follows, but the underlying values are appalling. Their belief that fate needs them to kill their fellow human beings is an inverted religion of demonic proportions. That they are unbelievably effective at it also is inverted as we find ourselves admiring their physics-defying kills. What is most disturbing is that they believe they are doing something good.

This is seen in the story Fox tells about watching an evil person torture and kill her father before her eyes because he was a judge working against organized crime. Explaining to Wesley that when she joined the fraternity and discovered that this killer’s name had come up three weeks before her father’s death but that the assassin had not completed his mission, the message is clear to Wesley: They are serving humanity. When evil can clothe itself such that it appears to be good, then the souls of the people involved are deceived and damaged.

The fact that Wesley is Wanted carries multiple meanings and conflicting purposes. That we are all simultaneously “wanted” by those who seek good and by those who seek evil is a description of the human condition. In answering this call, each of us discovers who we really are. If Wesley lives up to his namesake, he would choose to help people find life rather than lose it.

Discussion:

» Do you believe in fate? Why or why not?

» It is contrary to fatalism to think that we are supposed to be involved in changing the world, so this is not fate that is speaking to them. What do you think it is?

» The discovery Wesley makes in his father’s house provides the means for his redemption. Do you think he did the right thing?

» When the weavers believe that murder is good, they fall into a biblical “woe,” which is a word that describes the deterioration of their souls. The ancient prophet Isaiah said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). How often do you think it is true of us that we invert good and evil and experience the “woe” of such a distortion?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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