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June 30, 2008

’Wanted’: A ’Justice’ unlike God’s

Angelina_jolie_wanted_movie_image Amazing effects? Check. Unexpected plot points? Check. Visually stunning? Check. Uplifting message? Um.

While WALL-E is cleaning up at the box office, Wanted is not far behind. With top actors and exciting action, it's a predictable summer blockbuster designed to get audiences out of the heat and into the theater.

But what will they see? Chris Orr makes a good point about what comment the film makes about the current mentality of his gender [warning: spoilers and profanity in the link]:

Wanted is blunt and unapologetic. I don't believe I've ever seen a movie that advertised itself more plainly as an escapist fantasy for masculine impotence. . . .

Yet there is something sour and inhumane about Wanted that goes beyond the all-too-common ultraviolence. This is a film in which there is no joy to be found apart from the joy of violent mastery, in which any human connection is a sign of weakness and invitation to betrayal. Even sex has been banished from this particular male fantasy: The only times the subject comes up it is as humiliation (Wesley's [James McAvoy] cheating girlfriend), retaliation (his one kiss from Fox [Angelina Jolie] is a vengeful pantomime for the benefit of said girlfriend), or frustration (he--and, as of next week, millions of devastated teenage boys--narrowly misses seeing a naked Fox climb out of her revitalizing bath).

The underlying rage against women is hard to miss: Apart from titanium sex goddess Fox, the entire gender is represented by an ugly, emasculating boss and a . . . disloyal girlfriend. But even this sentiment takes a back seat to the contempt the movie heaps on any man weak enough to endure such abuse. Late in the movie, Wesley addresses the audience directly: "Six weeks ago, I was ordinary and pathetic, just like you. ... This is me taking control. What the ---- have you done lately?" Since you ask so nicely, Wesley, I'll tell you: I've watched a movie that, while fiercely entertaining, made me fear for the emotional health of my gender. You have a problem with that?

Beyond the misogyny, the sort of "justice" doled out by the Fraternity Wesley joins is no justice at all. Hollywood Jesus opines [more spoilers coming]:

In Wanted, James McAvoy's character joins a secret society of assassins whose motto is "Kill one, save a thousand." It's an interesting way to justify arbitrary slaughter, but how many of us have wondered what would have happened if someone would have stepped in to kill Hitler or Stalin before they came to power? In the deep, dark recesses of our nature the idea of killing one to save others makes sense and even seems just.

Interestingly, that's exactly the opposite thinking of God. If God had a similar motto, it would be "Save one, save a thousand." You see, God's sense of righteousness demands that everyone has a chance of being saved, no matter how horrible they may be. Yes, even Hitler and Stalin deserved a chance to experience the saving grace of God. It's not his desire for anyone to be lost but for all of us to be saved. That may seem rather reckless and even a bit naive as we consider how much pain and suffering might be spared if God just whacked those who deserved to be whacked. Of course, our concept of who's deserving of death isn't based on the same sense of justice as God's.

The truth is that we're all deserving of death, a fact that Morgan Freeman's Sloan and the rest of the society of assassins couldn't face. They wanted to be above that sentence, felt that they deserved to be above that sentence, and tried to manipulate circumstances to make sure they remained above the judgment that had been passed on them all.

Fortunately for us, God took care of that problem for us. Instead of killing one to save a thousand, One willingly died in order to save us all. Jesus Christ died and rose again so that we might be spared the death we so justly deserve. Jesus paid the price for us with his death because God loves us all so much; and as I pointed out, he wants to save all of us so we can experience life with him. However, the choice is up to us; we must choose to be saved.

Wanted tells us that our fate is in our hands and it isn't decided for us, and that's absolutely right. We can choose our fate: heaven or hell, life or death. Which will you choose? Or as the movie puts it, "What have you done with your life?"

(Wanted is rated R for language, violence, and sexuality. Image © Universal.)

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Dan Gill

Actually, it ought to be rated "S" for Stupid. Curve the bullet? Shoot the wings off of flies? The trailer is enough to convince me it would be a waste of time and money.

Chris Clukey

The Hollywood Jesus review makes excellent points (and so, apparently, does the TNR review, as far as I can tell without seeing the movie) but I do feel compelled to offer the following: No one deserves a chance to experience God's grace. That's why it's called "grace."

While we were yet sinners He died for us. Amazing indeed.


Another review from CT, via Thunderstruck:


CT's review says: "At times he is oddly reminiscent of Edward Norton, another actor who has specialized in playing nerdy, dweeby types who sometimes let their dark side show."

If I wasn't in such pointed agreement with Dan, that CT comment would make me want to see it merely as a study in comparison to my own dark side.

But I suspect it should be titled not "Wanted" but "Wasted (Time)", and rather than paying the theater ticket price, I can catch this one via cable while folding laundry or something similar. That is, unless something better is on.

The more interesting theme is (per the CT review) moral ambiguity. My wife in particular hates movies where good doesn't triumph over evil at the end - where you walk out of the theater feeling a little worse than when you entered. What are filmmakers trying to do to our society?


WALL-E's the better bet. But it's interesting that even in some stylized effects movie, moral questions are raised at all. Telling.

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