Blu Ray Title: Wanted
Disk Release Date: 2 December, 2008
Screen format: AVC Encoded 1080P High Definition, 2.35:1 Widedescreen
First theatrical release: 27 June, 2008
Previous releases on disk: Day and Date with Anamorphic Widescreen DVD
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terrence Stamp, Thomas Kretshmann, Common
Sound Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
In Wanted, Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) is struggling with his boring life, one where everyone in it is or has taken advantage of him. His boss is a nightmare, his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, and even his father walked out on him when he was just 7 days old. Wesley’s world is turned upside down when he is recruited by an agent of a secret fraternity of assassins and told that his father was one of the greatest killers of his lifetime but was gunned down himself just days before. The agent, Fox (Jolie), brings Wesley to meet Sloan (Freeman) the head of the fraternity and they convince Wesley to join, he has inherited his father’s gifts and even if he doesn’t use them, the killer, Cross (Kretshmann) will take down anyway. Wesley undergoes an intense and unusual training regimen, but prior to being given the go ahead to track down Cross he has to undertake a series of hits to test him out. These initial hits bring Wesley face to face with the reality of his new life and also introduces him to the backbone of the Fraternity, a series of looms which mysteriously generate the names of those who are targets. Oh, and I guess I forgot to mention that among Wesley’s powers are the ability to slow time and to curve the paths of bullets using only his mind.
Wanted is a terrific action film with great eye and ear candy. Where it fails is in the silliness of its general premise and the huge gap where any sense of moral quandary within Wesley should be. I can’t criticize it too badly as it is, after all ‘only’ a comic book adaptation (and the extras have some of the real comics brought to life through an interesting CG technology, and I found myself wishing they had completed THAT version of the film), and designed as a summer blockbuster, but the fact that these characters all seem perfectly at ease with taking killing orders from an unknown entity communicating via textiles didn’t really work for me.
Freeman of course is terrific and Jolie plays her part with uncharacteristic subtlety, but McAvoy seemed perfectly cast as the nebbish and thus I didn’t buy his transformation into an action hero.
Overall I’ve seen worse action films but I’m not in a huge rush to go out and play the video game or chomping at the bit for a sequel. If they go ahead and make that ‘motion comic’ into a feature film tho, give me a call!
Sound Quality: 4.5/5
Wanted is the very model of a major summer action film and the audio is first rate. While I’m surprised they didn’t spring for a 7.1 mix (ala Shoot em Up, a film that Wanted borrows from in many other respects) the 5.1 uncompressed DTS-HD does the job admirably and there are few films where bullets race around the room as well, and the car chase and other action sequences are likewise well done. Bass is solid but not really exceptional.
They even somehow got Danny Elfman to write the soundtrack, tho sadly the results are not as memorable as his best. Exceptions include “The Little Things” which is a lot more modern rock than what one would expect out of him, and “The Scheme”, “Rats” and “The Train” were pretty decent when listened to on their own but never given the room to breathe in the film itself.
Visual Quality: 4.5/5
Wanted is a very dark film but the blacks remain solid throughout with very subtle grain structure. It is moderately sharp and uses thin depth of field to good advantage in several instances, particularly in the CGI sequences which feature the action up front on top of out of focus planes to really add a nice sense of depth. The film uses earthy, dark tones throughout so colors never really get a chance to shine, however there are several detailed city scapes, explosions and sets which are simply jaw dropping in their detail. No complaints at all here, very solid and slick all around but not into the reference material level for me.
Extra Features: 4.5/5
Starting off there is a digital copy of the film on a second disk plus a number of U-Control features which will not go live until launch day, including ‘My Chat’. Other U-Control segments include the Motion Comic I have already mentioned plus a scene explorer which shows several segments from multiple tracks, including green-screen and story boards.
The bulk of the extras are in the traditional (and much appreciated!) menu selectable form! There is an extended version of one scene plus an entire opening sequence which was not used but is pretty cool. There are Assassin profiles for all of the fraternity members with interviews of the actors playing each part (beware of spoilers in these interviews!), there is an extended profile of how they made the bridges move since the train that Fox and Wesley run on top of was static, and two extensive and very well done looks at the practical and CGI effects within the film. Both are worth watching for sure. There are also interviews with the producers and with Mark Millar, creator of the Wanted Comic for Top Cow. Particularly interesting is Millar’s relating of the genesis of the story based on rumors his brothers told him. All told it’s a nice bunch of extras and I enjoyed many of them more than I did the film itself. At least the moral issues are considered here even if they aren’t touched on in the film (or the comic) itself.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
Once again slick styling, a hot leading lady, tons of effect work and a screaming soundtrack collide without really taking a satisfyingly original story along for the ride. The sad thing is that those complex issues are really well integrated into what little of the comic we get to see in this package and have been apparently jettisoned as unnecessary for summer fare. It’s a shame but not surprising.
Ultimately what drives the success of a film like this is not whether it disappoints those who are looking for a little substance to back up the style but whether it brings the goods in the action end of things and on that front there is little room for complaint. The bullets whiz, cars fly with ballet like precision and ultimately crash in satisfying thunks, and the bad guy gets confronted. In those terms Wanted is a success, and action fans will surely consider it worthy of at least a rental.
Worth noting is that this is Timur Bekmambetov’s first Hollywood vehicle, he is best known for the Russian films “Night Watch” and “Day Watch”, both of which I’ve got on order and should be seeing soon. It’s clear that he is a rising star and possessed of the drive and genius needed to make films the way he wants to make them, and this is a good first effort for him given this new level of show. He’s definitely a talent we should be hearing a lot more from.