Netflix produced a $200 million spy thriller with an absolute A-list of Hollywood stars and directors that fights for its subscribers’ attention. Despite its breathtaking action sequences, perfectly choreographed fight scenes, and beautiful scenery, it lacks the most fundamental element that makes a good movie great, an outstanding plot.
Based on the successful series of spy novels by Mark Greaney, the action follows Ryan Gosling as Agent Six, an assassin who does the dirty work for the CIA. In the opening scene, we find the agent at a New Year’s Eve party in Bangkok, on another mission to take out a target, no questions asked. The gorgeous scenery distracts from the forced quippy lines such as, “You’re not a fly on the wall yourself.” Whatever that means. Six is faced with a tough decision when the man he takes down is Agent Four, from the same agency, who has unveiled the agency’s dirty secrets, conveniently all on one pen drive. Agent Six is henceforth chased, hunted, shot at, drugged, trapped, and thrashed for the remainder of the movie.
The film does a fantastic job at keeping viewers entertained with its adrenaline-rushed action scenes and astounding scenery but for those who have watched a spy thriller, or two, before may have noticed an overly repetitive leitmotif in its plot and structure. By far the most surprising aspect of the film is its blatant disregard to seek a deeper plot. The reformed bad boy who now works for the CIA, uncovers a dirty truth about the agency he works for, then becomes the prey himself, and there is a poor girl somewhere he needs to save, of course. Bourne Identity, RED, The Contractor, Mission Impossible, Without Remorse, Taken, The Report, etc,… the list could easily fill three pages.
That being said, Chris Evans was a fantastic casting choice as the insane, villainous, and at times humorous, Lloyd Hansen. The “trash stage” as Ryan Gosling calls it, fits perfectly with his character’s overall appearance and slightly exaggerated persona. The same can’t be said about the rest of the cast whose characters were blander than mozzarella sticks without the mozzarella. Ryan Gosling is the tough guy with a soft heart, Ana de Armas is the seductive spy with unsolved chemistry with said tough guy, Billy-Bob Thornton is the veteran spymaster and father figure to Gosling, and the rest of the characters barely fill in the necessary plot holes. Rene-Jean Page as a chief CIA officer was unconvincing, not because of his acting but rather the poor quality of lines he was given.
The Russo brothers are not known for reinventing a genre but what they do excel in is taking something that already works and maximizing it times a thousand. Netflix got what they paid $200 million for, a spy-thriller that will jump-start its own micro-universe of movies and spin-offs. The streaming platform is hoping to start a new franchise of spy movies similar to the Bourne or James Bond movies. The question remains if that is financially conceivable given that this film and its sequels do not and will not have a cinematic window. Its revenue will come solely from Netflix’s subscribers, which as of late have been diminishing in numbers given the high quality of alternatives in streaming services that have risen in recent years.