The action/sci-fi/conspiracy/you-name-it film Wanted, available on DVD and Blu-Ray starting today, shows that even mere "entertainments" often have more interesting ideas than the explicitly "thoughtful"—meaning politicized and arrogantly didactic—films that deluge U.S. audiences during the holiday season.
Telling a crazily bizarre story of a bored young office worker who finds himself inducted (by birthright, no less) into an international order of preternaturally powered super-assassins, Wanted appears on the surface to be another mindless, irrational chunk of cotton candy from Hollywood, featuring extraordinary beautiful people (such as actress Angelina Jolie) doing inexplicable things in ludicrous story lines.
And it is indeed that on the surface.
Below the surface, however, there are some very interesting ideas in the film, which the literalists in the audience will fail to appreciate. Understanding that romances can be among the most thoughtful works of literature and drama is essential to a full appreciation of culture.
After all, Wanted is no more bizarre or outlandish than The Nutcracker or the wildly overrated Spanish director Luis Bunuel’s anti-bourgeois absurdities.
Look closely as you watch the DVD or Blu-Ray, and you’ll see that Wanted deals with serious issues about the foundations of personal faith, where and how we find meaning in life, how we make our choices in how to direct our lives, the extent to which our personal origins bind us, freedom of the will, and the limits of that freedom.
That the film does so under cover of an action-packed, nonsensical, adventure story that deals with physical impossibilities such as curving bullets only serves to make the more contemplative and indeed dramatic moments (and yes, there are some) available to an audience that would avoid more overtly serious films as not worth the effort.
As such, Wanted is an important reminder that important meanings are not only to be found in explicitly serious films but instead are in fact often to be gleaned from what seem to be (and may well actually be) intellectually unambitious works of culture.