Do not envy the violent
and do not choose any of their ways
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
I wondered as I watched Russian director Timur Bekmambetov’s video game of a film what he would do if he could not access computer-generated effects. I doubt if there is more than ten minutes of film in which computer graphics are not employed. This is one of the most exciting films to be seen this summer, with our heroes running atop a speeding Chicago elevated train chasing each other, and one of them shooting a man at a meeting inside a building they are passing; deadly fights with knives and big guns; chases through streets and across rooftops—the film seems crowded with sadistic violence and deception.
At the beginning of the film Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is much like Carrie and other teenage victims-turned avenging death angels—a much put upon door mat for the world. He is an accountant working in a cubicle where his colleague makes fun of him and his overweight female boss enjoys humiliating him in front of everyone. He takes pills to calm his nerves and makes no attempt to rebel. Even the monitor at his ATM insults him when he tries to get a small amount of cash from his over-drawn account. And then he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie) at his pharmacy, a sexy killer with a big gun who tells him that his father has been killed and that the murderer is standing behind him intent on killing him, too. Fox grabs and carries around Wesley like he was a rag doll as she engages their assailant, Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) in a gun battle, turning the drug store into a messy shooting gallery.
Soon Wesley is brought to a castle-like textile mill where he meets Sloan (Morgan Freeman), who informs Wesley that his father possessed super-normal powers and was a member of a thousand year-old assassins’ group called The Fraternity. He too has super powers. It takes a long training course involving excruciating beatings and slashes and cuts dueling with big knives for Wesley to uncover them, a training course that makes Rocky Balboa’s seem like kindergarten fare. I mean Wesley is really pummeled and stabbed and cut, though fortunately the Fraternity has a secret formula bath that restores the battered body to health after several hours of soaking.
Wesley, once he is so quick that he can reach into a loom and grab the fast-moving shuttle without getting his hand mangled, is given an assignment to kill a man, no questions asked. Balking at first, he is told to follow orders, that the loom in the mill delivers a binary code in the warp and woof of the cloth, which Sloan interprets, discovering the name of the next kill, and that Wesley is to be the deliverer. (Remember, this film is based on Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ comic book series, so don’t delve too deeply into the code, or such matters as how they know that a target will be sitting in the exact position so that an assassin atop a speeding commuter train can have half a second for a clear shot. Oh yes, did I mention that Wesley learns how to curve the trajectory of a bullet so that it flies by an obstacle and scores bulls eye?)
When Sloan tells Wesley, “The wolves rule, not the sheep,” I thought of Jesus’ words to his disciples, ” Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…” Wesley eventually comes to a shocking revelation about “the wolves,” one that calls everything from his recent past into question. The final confrontation is very different from what he had expected. one with a great sacrifice, that might remind you of Luke Skywalker experience in the first Star Wars trilogy. There is another sacrifice made by another character, surprising in that I do not think the plot adequately prepares us for the motivation behind it. All I can say is that even in the violent, sordid world of Wanted some measure of grace can be found. This is not a film suitable for the usual church group, so again we are not providing a set of discussion questions. However, the following observation about choices, made by Sloan, is worth pondering: “It a choice, Wesley, that each of us must face: to remain ordinary, pathetic, beat-down, coasting through a miserable existence, like sheep herded by fate – or you can take control of your own destiny and join us, releasing the caged wolf you have inside. Our purpose is to maintain stability in an unstable world – kill one, save a thousand. Within the fabric of this world, every life hangs by a thread. We are that thread – a fraternity of assassins with the weapons of fate. This is the decision that lies before you now: the sheep, or the wolf. The choice is yours.”