Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, the spy saga revival brings a fresh take on women who run the world.
Charlie’s Angels is a sugar rush of pretty people, pop hits, and picturesque European locations– and that’s not even mentioning the fabulous wardrobes. It’s a fun, music video-forward ride for any viewer, but probably resonates most with its teen audience, blissfully showing that life can be both badass and glamorous if you’re an empowered woman.
The revamped Angels follows Elena (Naomi Scott), a brilliant scientist whose top secret project can cause deadly seizures if used improperly. When Elena is attempted to be kidnapped to gain information, the Angels step in, beginning the saga of keeping the technology out of the hands of the wrong people (ahem, men). Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) round out the famous Angels trio, helmed by Bosley (Elizabeth Banks). Patrick Stewart also graces the screen as John Bosley, the former Angels leader, and it’s wonderful to see him in something this light.
While this film is not for fans of practicality (“Wait, I can hack this” is a common phrase used by Elena), the globe-trotting adventure with makeovers, wigs, sequins, and karate kicks makes it all worth it. The bad guys are sexy and flirtatious (Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, and Chris Pang), and death is merely a fantastical inconvenience. But this is the world of crushes, girl power, and Altoid-weapons, so who really cares?
The Angels are terrific in their own right, but Stewart’s Sabina steals the spotlight with her comedic timing and deadpan zingers. Stewart has proven she really can do anything, and climbing out of a rock tumbler to an Ariana Grande track while wearing a jockey outfit is no exception. It’s Stewart’s knowing smile that provides the “wink” element of the film, even when delivering lines like “mo money, mo problems.” And yes, it’s said as “mo” not “more” and she pulls it off– even a further testament to Stewart’s likability.
While some jokes fall flat (a particular tangent on Ben Affleck’s role as Batman seemed out of place), Banks’ screenplay truly shows her passion for both the story and message. Her acting is impeccable as always, and the mother hen-aspect of Bosley is a welcomed new take on the character.
However, there seems to be two films happening simultaneously: one, an ode to crime-stopping female heroes, and another that embraces the inherent fetishization and sexuality of the film itself. Jane punches a bad guy (really, is it even worth knowing who?) after he looks at a seductive 70s poster of an identical woman; the punch is more towards objectification than it is the bad guy himself. But in the climax of the film–taking the term quite literally– Elena struggles on her knees in a red corset dress, wearing a Cartier-style collar attached to a delicately fetishized leash, surrounded by aforementioned sexy bad guys. Elena warns them that the rest of the Angels are on their way; Stewart purrs into the camera “I hope they come,” and it’s hard to imagine that Banks didn’t know what she was doing. The final scene with men falling to the ground at the hands of female sleeper Angels agents propels the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-level canon.
The message of sisterhood, of the shared experience of being a woman, is celebrated as something powerful enough to be deemed “superhero”-worthy in the Angel world. The credits montage of Rhonda Rousey, Laverne Cox, and Danica Patrick as secret Angels trainers makes the message quite literal: Angels are symbolic of every woman who finds her voice, and wants to fight against the patriarchy to make themselves heard. They are often overlooked, dismissed, or underestimated, but they can sure throw a mean punch. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg is mentioned as being an Angel. And Charlie is a woman! What a twist.
Banks smartly prepares for a follow up with Lili Reinhart (fresh off of Hustlers and Riverdale) and Banks’ Pitch Perfect costar Hailee Steinfeld (currently in the critically-acclaimed Dickinson) as other Angels recruits. Throw a sequel in there with a summer release so we can reenact the literal driving off into the Californian sunset final shot, shades and laughter included, and we have ourselves a franchise.