Friday, June 19, 2020

Review: The Wasp Network

Release date: June 19, 2020
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Ana de Armas, Edgar Ramírez, Penélope Cruz, Wagner Moura

The Wasp Network tells the story of five Cuban political prisoners who had been imprisoned by the United States since the late 1990s on charges of espionage and murder.  These individuals were Cubans who came to America to spy and infiltrate American networks were planning attacks on communist Cuba.  The Wasp Network chronicles some of their deceptions and the lengths that they went to keep up their stories.

The first thing that strikes you about the Wasp Network is the amazing cast that they assembled for this story.  Headlined by Penélope Cruz, the cast includes the always amazing Ana de Armas, Wagner Moura who I really loved in Sergio, Edgar Ramírez, and Mozart in the Jungle himself, Gael García Bernal.  The cast is simply stellar and seeing their interactions and characters are an absolute treat.  And I loved the fluid mix of English and Spanish dialogue; the movie naturally and effortlessly transitions languages to make for more realistic dialogue.  Also, the cinematography is wonderful, with some great shots of Florida and Cuba.  And there are enough members of the network that you get a variety of shots and experiences.

However, the Wasp network does encompass many operatives and many stories.  It actually feels like there is too much going on for a single movie.  The story is very interesting but it takes too long to develop with too many people.  I really think this would have benefited from being a mini-series, one where each episode is focused on a member of the network with a few episodes at the end tying them all together.  That is essentially how the film is structured now, but instead of a full 60-minute exploration per character, we get about 10 or 15 minutes for each person.  The problem with the compact story is that it makes the film overly complicated and it is difficult to figure out who is on what side.  Without enough backstory and time with the characters, we have people changing sides or revealing aspects about themselves suddenly.  And the various networks are tough to follow because we just don't spend much time with them.  

The Wasp Network's stellar cast and beautiful cinematography weave a complicated, intricate, and interesting story. 

Rent it.
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