As the old idiom goes: “What begins as a terrible, incoherent, confusing mess will always end as one.”

This is slightly (and very purposefully) facetious, but it’s far from an exaggeration to suggest that Wasp Network – Olivier Assayas’s latest film after the reasonably good Kristen Stewart vehicle Personal Shopper  and disappointing literary drama Doubles Vies, constitutes a shining example of just how not to edit a film. It’s not so much a problem shot by shot as much as it is with the macro cut: between the dull fades, oddly placed zooms, and exposition-heavy montages – a la The Big Shortonly far more pedestrian – what could be a fine political thriller is chained to mediocrity.

Therein lies one of the most egregious issues with Wasp Network: it stretches what should be 90 minutes at most into a two-hour borefest. The core conceit of the film, the eponymous “wasp network” – a web of pro-Castro Cuban spies based throughout Florida who infiltrated anti-government organisations on the pretence of defection – isn’t formally introduced until halfway into the film’s runtime.

It’s not entirely bereft. Penélope Cruz puts in a decent, if melodramatic, performance as Olga González, wife to René (Edgar Ramírez), one of the central faux-defectors – the latent problem here being that her characterisation is based in being nothing more than the aforementioned “wife to René, one of the central faux-defectors”. How three-dimensional. The soundtrack is decently curated, too: there’s an excellent mic drop during one of said exposition-heavy montages, so if you’re not entirely asleep by that point, it’ll at least jolt you awake.

For the most part, though, Wasp Network is far from the snappy and coherent political thriller it’s trying to be – so far as to say that the cut screened at Venice feels like a last-minute hodge-podge. Be warned: it’ll leave you feeling waspish.

RATING: 2/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Penélope Cruz, Edgar Ramírez, Gael Garcia Bernal

DIRECTOR: Olivier Assayas

WRITER: Olivier Assayas

SYNOPSIS: Havana, December 1990. René González, a Cuban airline pilot, steals a plane and escapes the country, leaving behind his beloved wife and daughter. He begins a new life in Miami, soon joined by other Cuban dissidents, all working towards the destabilisation of the Castro regime.

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About The Author

Jack King

Jack is a British film journalist, exhibitor and screenwriter. He currently resides in South East London but spends at least an hour per day wishing he was in the Italian Riviera – and no, not just because he watched Call Me by Your Name twenty-six times, thank you very much.