It seems like every other generation, more or less, gets their Charlie’s Angels reboot. The original TV series ran for the second half of the 1970s, while the noughties played host to two film outings for a new version of the team. This time around, we’re rebooting the Townsend Agency for an era in which the “Jiggle TV” trappings of the first incarnation of the Angels would be very much out of place. Through the pen and the lens of writer-director Elizabeth Banks, the Angels of 2019 are spiky, powerful and a tonne of fun.
Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are a duo of Angels responsible for carrying out tasks on behalf of Bosley (Patrick Stewart playing the role previously embodied by Bill Murray). Bosley, however, is retiring and hands his job and his team over to a former Angel (Elizabeth Banks). The team hears that scientist and programmer Elena (Naomi Scott) wants to expose her superiors, who are refusing to fix an energy conservation device that, in its current form, can induce fatal brain seizures and is, therefore, a weapon in waiting – “a perfect assassination machine”. She’s soon along for the ride, and quickly decides she wants to be an Angel herself.
Charlie’s Angels is a fast-moving and kinetic blockbuster, which mostly keeps its foot so firmly on the gas pedal that it gets away with an uninspiring and not entirely convincing conspiracy plot. It’s a globe-trotting espionage tale in the Bond mould, in a similar way to the vastly inferior Men in Black: International from early this year. Where that film failed, however, Angels largely succeeds in keeping the pace swift and the entertainment value high.
The movie is helped in that respect by its very impressive central cast. Brit actor Ella Balinska is terrific as the serious member of the team, with an MI6 past, while Stewart is having the time of her life in a role pregnant with anarchic energy – anyone who’s still posting memes about her facial expressions should watch this film – and self-referential silliness. Naomi Scott largely plays the straight woman and audience surrogate, but she’s too good not to shine as someone who is keen to show her best while being massively out of her depth in life-or-death situations.
Unsurprisingly given the change in perspective towards women in cinema since McG’s pair of Charlie’s Angels films, there’s a strong ‘girl power’ vibe to this reboot. At times, it works perfectly – Stewart yelling “I’m your girlfriend now” before sparking out a villain with a swift headbutt – but at others, it seems forced and over-played. There’s definitely room for Charlie’s Angels to exist in this arena, but it might be better to let the action women and their heroic qualities – as well as the terrible men – speak for themselves in any future movies.
But, with that said, this film is a consistently enjoyable and energetic action thriller. Banks shows herself to be a very capable action director and, as expected, she keeps a nimble eye on the comedy edges of the narrative as well. It’s a mixed bag of a movie that doesn’t always hit the heights for which it reaches, but there’s no denying that these new angels have got their wings. I’d love to see them fly even higher in the future.
Dir: Elizabeth Banks
Scr: Elizabeth Banks
Prd: Elizabeth Banks, Doug Belgrad, Elizabeth Cantillon, Max Handelman
DOP: Bill Pope
Music: Brian Tyler
Run time: 119 mins
Charlie’s Angels is in UK cinemas now.