Wanted is yet another tale of an ordinary Joe Blow discovering that he is, and has been all along, extraordinary. It flicks on in us that little hope that we too will someday find a larger purpose to our everyday lives – that we will discover we are princesses, millionaires or, in Wesley Gibson’s case, assassins.

Wesley’s (James McAvoy) life is more than ordinary. It is soul destroying. He works as an accountant, his boss bullies him by snapping a stapler next to his ear, he wakes up every morning in a crumbling apartment building to the sound of roaring trains, and his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. Wesley is aware of all of these things, but has no energy to confront them – to the point where he pays for his friend’s pack of condoms. His life is so dull and empty that all motivation to change it has been zapped from him. He is interested in nothing, he can’t find meaning anywhere. The most exciting part of his day is Googling his own name – ‘no results found’.

Luckily for Wanted’s sad and inactive protagonist, however, salvation comes to him. He is rescued one dull evening while buying anxiety medication in the pharmacy. His saviour – no less than a gun toting Angelina Jolie.

Wesley, it turns out, is destined to be an assassin. The ability to murder people quickly and from long distances apparently runs in the family, and it is now Wesley’s turn to shoot to kill. Billing reports and ergonomic keyboards are replaced by train surfing and being stabbed in the hand. Wesley becomes interested in the world again; he is quick, awake, alive. He shoots the wings off flies and rips the stapler from his boss’s hand. He plays with guns and knives and hits his best friend across the face with office equipment. He jumps on top of trains and gets pashed by Angel Jolie. What more could you want from life?

Things are, however, a little more complicated than they first seem. Wesley has become part of a clan of assassins (dubbed ‘The Fraternity’) who have existed for thousands of years and who receive their killing orders from a giant loom. That’s right – deciding who to take out is based on coded threads produced by a textile machine. Our hero initially has some doubts about this method of playing God. However, his conscience is quickly put to rest after listening to Angelina telling scary stories in flickering candlelight. After that, Wesley is happy to shoot anyone.

Wanted is the kind of film that sets your heart racing – guns, explosions, loud music. Through Wesley’s eyes we are all strong, beautiful, and powerful. We are all determined to go to work tomorrow and tell our bosses where to stick their staplers. We are going to stop sitting in front of Google and start learning how to knife fight. We’re going to dump our inadequate spouses and start dating Angelina Jolie. However, by the time the credits have half rolled and the lights are up, the adrenaline starts to dissipate. And with it, the desire to break out of our own little dulls-villes into violence and weapons training. By the time we’re out of the cinema we’re thinking about a cup of tea before bed, and perhaps reading a few chapters of Harry Potter. Maybe we’ll discover our assassin destiny tomorrow . . .

Wanted (directed by Timur Bekmambetov) was released in 2008. It stars James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, and Morgan Freeman.


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