‘Charlie’s Angels’ review: Unapologetic feminism, trite action

Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in ‘Charlie’s Angels’

Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in ‘Charlie’s Angels’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


The good intentions of the latest offering in the franchise is wasted in an absolute dud of a thriller

As an answer to decades of being sidelined in mainstream Hollywood classics, women, both on and off camera, are demanding control of their narratives. Reboots with an all-female cast appear to be the answer for many. Films like Oceans 8 (2018) and Ghostbusters (2016) swapped gender of its leads, but contained its messaging to ‘if men can do it so can women’. Charlie’s Angels is quite an anomaly in this trend. The franchise always had women at the fore, yet the gaze was questionable. The unapologetically feminist 2019 reboot, helmed by Elizabeth Banks in the director’s seat, is an explicit (often self-proclaimed) and in some instances metaphorical (not that subtle) way of saying, ‘Time’s up’ to the men (older white especially) who have enjoyed the position of power.

From opening the film with dialogues like, “Do you know it takes men additional seven seconds to perceive women as a threat?”, the use of pop music by female artistes, a montage of women in various avatars supplementing the title appearance, to showcasing sisterhood in-between fights — the film demands to be ‘feminine’. The women are neither the centre of desire nor ‘macho-fied’ to make them palatable to a male audience. As an aside, the film is also conscious of race and sexuality-inclusion (although the latter with Kristen Stewart’s character is inconsequential and speculative). All the right intentions and details are there in abundance, but if you take them all out, the film is an absolute dud of an action thriller.

Charlie’s Angels
  • Director: Elizabeth Banks
  • Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Patrick Stewart
  • Story line: After a whistle blower's exposé, Charlie's Angels have to protect the world from a dangerous technology

The film is one chase/fight scene after another, with an inability to build up to a gripping finale. The climax, which is supposed to be the most engrossing part of an action thriller, is its weakest section with a setup that is least imaginative: a party. The conflict wants to be as contemporary as it can with the plot revolving around a whistleblower in a potentially destructive tech company. But the narrative devices and storytelling are done and dusted — betrayal, big reveals, et al.

The space which the characters inhabit is an integral part of action sequences. The first big showdown happens in a Hamburg cafe, which is a lukewarm start, with characters flipping tables and kicking guns. Then a long sequence is shot in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, pretending it to be a swanky and well-guarded research centre for the evil company. More than the use of space, it’s the getup of the Angels (bowl hair wigs) that’s amusingly done in this scenario. The only setting that stands out is a factory with giant conveyor belts and concrete mixers, where the space interacts with the characters in a manner that generates some amount of thrill. Rest, be it a derby in Istanbul or the criminally-banal party in the climax, Charlie’s Angels is unable to be imaginative.

The only takeaway then circles back to its messaging. There are ample instances where men are egging the Angels on with misogynistic, patriarchal and patronising comments like, “It can be manufactured in pastel colours for ladies” or “If women can, that does not mean they should”. The women’s response, both verbally and physically, counter these agitations. The climax, without saying too much, is also symbolic of ‘we no longer will take it lying down’. But what’s the point of the feminist overtones, when the film itself is unremarkable and highly likely to be consigned to oblivion?

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 11:38:03 PM |

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