Director: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, and Elizabeth Banks
Cinematographer: Bill Pope
A new generation of Charlie’s Angels is here – to protect the vulnerable and show that women, when we use our multitude of skills, can get any job done. It’s a concept that has been around since the 1976 television series and continued its reign with film in the early 2000s. But this time around, Director Elizabeth Banks puts a spin on the establishment, showcasing a full-fledged girl power epic that mixes the old with the new. In this feature, she celebrates what has been and champions the path forward for such a franchise, giving us a Charlie’s Angels that is fresh and charming even when the script is one of a standard action flick.
Naomi Scott (Aladdin, 2019) plays Elena Houghlin, the creative genius behind the Calisto project – one dangerous enough to prompt security precautions for our heroic scientist. Though her superiors, a group of men who are money and power-hungry (because… what else would they be?), feel they’ve taken all measures to ensure the project is a go, Elena seeks outside help to stop the world around her from crashing down. Who does she turn to? The Angels, of course. There’s Sabina Wilson played by Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper, 2016), the quirky Angel with a rough past and infectious personality. She’s joined by former MI6 agent, Jane Kano (Ella Balinska, A Modern Tale, 2017), to assist Elena in stopping the mayhem that’s caused all of her recent troubles. Together, the group unwinds a loop of secrets and lies in the process, making their adventure simple to follow but joyful, nonetheless.
If there’s one thing Banks wants audiences to take with them after seeing Charlie’s Angels, it’s that a hardworking woman alone is already badass. But a group of women working together is a force of nature. Even at the start of the film, we meet Stewart’s Sabina Wilson as she playfully has her way with Jonny Smith (Chris Pang, Crazy Rich Asians, 2018), a man clearly unaware that he’s in immediate danger because he’s blinded by Sabina’s beauty. Sabina even verbally admits that she’s a threat, but Jonny thinks nothing of it. This, of course, is simply a distraction. Soon after, a band of Angels comes and takes care of business, a scene promising to build excitement and set the pace for a great action flick.
At times, however, the film doesn’t live up to these early promises of appeal. The action sequences are somewhat muddled, with a shaky camera at the cause of it all. Also – and probably my biggest gripe with the feature – is how little time it spends on the Angels as individuals. What we know of Sabina and Jane are merely revealed in a couple of conversations, and they are to the extent of surface-level representation. So when we see Jane as the standoffish powerhouse agent, it’s up to the audience to assume that comes from her dark days as an MI6 agent. Or when Sabina, the positive free spirit who comes from a life of crime, revels in the idea of being a part of this new team, it all feels neatly presented with no support of substance.
Still, I’d be lying if I were to say that this wasn’t a crowd pleaser because there are so many moments that rendered frequent chuckles and smiles out of me. Interestingly enough, Director Elizabeth Banks managed to do this without relying on the cheesiness that such a feature, at times, requires. But I guess that’s the magic of women in film. Against all odds, it simply worked.