Charlie’s Angels originated in the 1970’s as a successful, hour-long T.V series about a trio of badass female detectives known as the Angels who would solve crimes and usually have to wear evening gowns, bikinis, and other various sexy clothing. We got a big screen adaptation of the show in 2000 that kept in the same spirit of the show. It featured a trio of women who wore sexy costumes to solve crimes, though this time around, the Angels worked in espionage and other world-threatening problems. We got two of these movies, both directed by McG, and while the first film is relatively fun and cheesy, the second film, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, is absolutely bonkers and a movie that was more concerned with special effects, explosions, and how little clothing the Angels could wear than actual plot, acting, and character development.
Sixteen years after Full Throttle, we get another Charlie’s Angels reboot. However, if you’re worried that this new version is just going to recycle the same nonsense McG did, think again. Writer/director Elizabeth Banks, who also stars in the film, made a Charlie’s Angles for the modern time that is full of exciting action, great costumes, and an excellent cast all while focusing on its characters and the growth of a new team.
Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) is a young systems engineer who is working on a piece of technology called Calypso, which is basically a super-enhanced Alexa product. Elena knows that Calypso isn’t ready and could be used as a weapon, though that doesn’t stop people from wanting to use it. When word gets out that Elena knows the dangers of Calypso, there is a price on her head from black market terrorists and other worldly villains. Luckily for Elena, the Townsend Agency is on her tail for protection. Led by Bosley (Banks) and two agents, the no-filtered Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and the always-serious Jane (Ella Balinksa), they bring Elena along on their mission to stop whomever is buying Calypso from using it for evil.
This is Banks’ second feature directorial effort following 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2 and it shows she really has a knack behind the camera. Banks does a really good job of grounding this movie in the real world, yet not taking away any of the fun and excitement that came with the original series. The action is thrilling, with some great chase sequences, shootouts, and hand-to-hand fights that really highlight the physicality of Stewart, Balinska, and Scott. But Banks really shines in the films story, plot, and characters, something that was completely missed in the previous films. Unlike the other films and the T.V. show, the Townsend Agency is more than just a trio of women. Banks shows us that this agency is larger than we ever thought and subverts ideas we thought we knew, like the idea that Bosley is a title rather than a singular person. This is also a movie that focuses on the founding of a team and the ups-and-downs they go through. Though a globe-trotting spy film, the plot is tight and never confusing. There are some twists here and there and they mostly work, though the final “twist” was one I hoped they weren’t going to do that brought the movie down a notch.
Kristen Stewart continues to impress me as an actress. Well beyond her days of Twilight, Stewart has become one of the most daring and interesting actresses working today with films like Clouds of Sils Maria, Personal Shopper, and Lizzie. However, Charlie’s Angels puts Stewart in a genre she hasn’t dabbled too much in as an actress: comedy. Stewart does a wonderful job portraying Sabina’s weirdness, delivering quirky one-liners, wearing ridiculous costumes, and kicking some serious ass throughout the mission. Stewart had me cracking up the whole movie and I would love to see her do more comedies in the future. Scott and Balinska are still relatively new actresses, but their stars are growing brighter with every film. Scott, who also starred in the year’s Aladdin, showcases her comedic talents as well and she’s a blast. Balinska uses her fierce, striking presence to convey to the angel who is all business. The three of them, along with Banks’ Bosley, have terrific chemistry, playing off one another and coming together to be a great team.
This is the best version of Charlie’s Angels to date. It’s funny, exciting, and full of action, heart, and great characters. Elizabeth Banks may only have two films under her belt, but she’s a real-deal director with a bright future ahead of her. This is an excellent beginning to what I hope to be a new, successful franchise.
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