Written by: Matt Patti
Charlie’s Angels (Elizabeth Banks, 2019) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Before I start this review, I must state a caveat: I have not seen any of the previous entries in the “Charlie’s Angels” universe, including the original TV show. So, I went into this movie with no expectations whatsoever and nothing to compare it to, with a fresh set of young eyes. Therefore, there will be no comparisons in this review, as I am unable to make any.
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) writes, directs and stars in this new Charlie’s Angels film, which supposedly takes place in the same universe as the previous material. This new film stars Kristen Stewart (Twilight) as Sabina and Ella Balinska (Sky One’s The Athena series) as Jane, two women that work as James Bond-style spies, called “Angels,” for a group known as the Townsend agency, run by the mysterious Charlie … known only as a voice that comes through a speaker. They are instructed to help a client named Elena, played by Naomi Scott (Aladdin). Elena is a lead scientist on a new technology that has dangerous side effects. When the tech is in danger of falling into the wrong hands, Angels Sabina and Jane, with the help of Elena, put their lives at stake to protect the tech before it’s too late. Patrick Stewart (X-Men) and Banks also star as “Bosleys,” agents that directly report to Charlie and help the Angels in their quests.
The first few minutes of the film had me a bit worried that the film’s message would be beaten over the audience’s head in an on-the-nose, obnoxious way. The first scene features Stewart (Kristen, that is) on a date with a wealthy businessman having a long conversation about what a woman can and cannot do. Thankfully, the rest of the film was much more subtle with its message and not so obvious and forced. I expected the film to rightfully have a strong tone with messages about female empowerment and feminism, both of which I support. However, I am never a fan of a movie’s message being spoon-fed to its audience … no matter how much I support it. So, I was happy that after the first few minutes, the rest of the film was much more clever and subtle in the way it displayed its message.
Charlie’s Angels is a fun and wild ride, with an interesting plot that keeps you guessing with unpredictable twists and turns. The action scenes themselves left a bit to be desired, though, as the quick cutting style produced a headache for me with the constant camera movement, cuts to different angles, and overall pacing. I would’ve preferred an action style similar to John Wick, where there are a few long takes that showcase all the action inside them. However, Charlie’s Angels is not all about the action. The narrative itself keeps the audience interested throughout with a clever story that goes in many different directions. The performances are all very good, with the exception of Kristen Stewart’s Sabina in a few scenes coming off as a bit awkward and annoying. However, the film seems to be aware of this, and so does the character, as Sabina openly admits in the film to Jane that she knows she can be annoying. So, I guess the film was going for that!
Overall, Charlie’s Angels is a solid action-adventure film thanks to Banks’ clever screenplay, its talented nearly all-female cast, and its powerful but smartly subtle message. The action scenes are run-of-the-mill quick cuts, typical of lower-budget action films, that can be a bit jarring, but this film is not all about action. I wouldn’t say it’s top of the line in the action-adventure genre, but it was refreshing to see a film where the women are our action heroes, with men as the “damsels in distress”, and a showcase that proves that women can do anything men can do, and many things better.