Why is Angelina Jolie so big on this poster? The movie isn't really about her. Her character isn't even that interesting. Ah, but she's the big star and there is a scene of her tattooed backside in the movie.
James McAvoy's character, Wesley Gibson, is the main character. His character is interesting and I was impressed with his performance.
Wesley is the meek who finds out that he is inheritor of the earth - or at least he's the heir of a huge fortune and the legacy of his father who was a master assassin. Wesley never knew his father, but according to Fox (Jolie) and Sloan (Morgan Freeman), Wesley's father was killed by the rogue assassin Cross. They offer Wesley the opportunity to develop his superpowers and take revenge on Cross.
The back story and premise of the league of assassins, the Fraternity, is a definite improvement on the comic-book back story which involves super-villains ruling the world. The villains are ridiculous, including one made out of poop. Okay, set the comic book aside, it's the movie we're interested in. The Fraternity is interesting because they take their orders from a higher power, Fate. Embedded in the random patterns of fabric from a loom is a code that gives the Fraternity the names of individuals who must be terminated for the greater good of society. Should one of the members of the Fraternity fail to carry out their mission, then individuals who would cause great harm are free to carry out evil. This happened to Fox and her family. An assassin got cold feet and did not follow Fate's orders. His intended target killed Fox's father and tortured her and her family.
This feature of the film introduces philosophical and moral questions. Is killing categorically wrong? If someone could eliminate Hitler before he had a chance to initiate the holocaust, would it be right? Can such atrocities be placed at the feet of one person? Fox, Wesley, and Sloan debate their allegiance to Fate. Are they supposed to follow Fate's orders blindly and literally or does Fate need some interpretation?
Sloan obviously believes that Fate should be interpreted. This is where the plot thickens and where I will spoil this plot if you read any further. SPOILER WARNING!
Okay, Cross is a rogue assassin because he discovered that Sloan was changing Fate's orders to set him and his associates up as manipulators of history. Cross was their best assassin and no one would be able to defeat him, except for Wesley. In a very "Darth Vader" moment, we learn that Wesley is of course Cross' son and Cross would never harm his son. Sloan and the others used Wesley to kill his own father.
It is a very disappointing and sorrowful turn for the movie. In one sense, the bad guys win. Sloan and the others lose a lot. Fox and the others are killed by their own hand or by Wesley's. Sloan escapes, but Wesley loses the father he never knew and Cross loses the chance to share time with the son he could only watch from afar. The final battle in which Wesley gets his revenge on the Fraternity is gratuitous. The pent-up anger of a 24-year-old male who has been kicked around by everyone in his life is unleashed in a hail of bullets and carnage.
More disturbing, although less gratuitous, is the final act of the movie. Wesley takes out Sloan with a decoy and a long-range bullet just as his father Cross had done with an assassin a the beginning of the movie. Wesley narrates the path of the bullet as it tracks backward past his friend, ex-girlfriend, his former boss, and others. Wesley says, "This is me taking control." He says that he is taking back control of his life from the Fraternity, his cheating ex-girlfriend, his lying friend, his oppressive boss and his dead end job. Once the bullet is back in the barrel, Wesley looks up and breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience directly, "What the #### have you done lately?" There's a dangerous message here that needs to be recognized: "This is me taking control" is equated with a angry young man and a gun firing on those who he believes have done him wrong. Even though it's dressed up with special effects, the scene evokes the spirit of the Columbine, Jonesboro, and Virginia Tech shootings.
At one point in the movie Sloan tells Wesley, "It's a choice, Wesley, that each of us must face. To remain ordinary, pathetic, beat-down, coasting through a miserable existence, like sheep herded by fate, or you can take control of your own destiny and join us, releasing the caged wolf you have inside." In the end, Wesley follows Sloan's advice - but don't forget, Sloan is the villain.