Film Review – Ghosted
Ghosted (2023) has the kind of glossy artificiality of an amusement park stage show. There are plenty of explosions, shoot outs, and death-defying stunts, but there’s never a moment we are not aware that everything is a simulation. There is no tension because we don’t believe there are any legitimate stakes. That may not be the production’s aim. This could very well be a vehicle for good-looking movie stars to get together and have some fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Chemistry alone can help carry the weight of a movie, as it does here. However, with two very interesting and likable actors, we come away wishing they had something more interesting to do.
Chris Evans and Ana de Armas work well together, as shown in their previous pairings in Knives Out (2019) and The Gray Man (2022). Here, the two simultaneously lean into and subvert their on-screen personas. Evans plays Cole, a mild-mannered farmer who falls head over heels for de Armas’ Sadie after a chance encounter at a farmer’s market. When Sadie ignores (or “ghosts”) his texts, Cole decides to take matters into his own hands and visit her in London. Little does he realize that Sadie is a deadly CIA agent, whose exploits have given her the nickname “The Tax Man.” Things get complicated when several bad guys – including Adrien Brody’s mustache-twirling antagonist – mistaken Cole for The Tax Man and put a bounty on his head. Add in some secret codes, a weapon of mass destruction, and globe-hopping antics, and you have yourself the ingredients of a well-oiled action/romantic comedy.
Let’s be honest: Nothing I described in the above paragraph means all that much in the long run. It’s all fluff – a half realized stage for Evans and de Armas to play in. The direction (Dexter Fletcher) and writing (Chris McKenna, Rhett Reese, Erik Sommers, Paul Wernick) tries to paint their contrasts with hard lines. She is the efficient killer; he is the lovable goofball. The first act establishes their romance, with awkwardly constructed dialogue about potted plants and The Exorcist (1973). Nothing says “Love” like cactus being used as a metaphor for someone’s commitment issues. Salvatore Totino’s cinematography paints these scenes in dramatic golden hues, where every edge of the frame looks like it is sparkling. The visuals are so over the top that they look like a commercial – as though the production were spoofing romantic comedies as opposed to making one. The execution takes a hard left once the action side of things kick into gear.
The central set piece involves a high-speed chase through the mountain ranges of Pakistan. As our heroes try to evade gunfire while driving a bus, the camera zooms in, out, above, and around it as the song “My Sharona” blares in the background. The special effects combine real-life photography (such as the wide shots following the vehicles) combined with CGI aided close ups of the actors. Essentially, whenever we get a good look at Evans and de Armas’ faces, we can guess that they aren’t actually barreling down the road or dangling from a high precipice. Interestingly, the preceding scene – where Cole and Sadie engage in a shootout inside a cavernous hideout – was the more believable sequence. At the very least, we can see Evans and de Armas participating in the action.
Since Chris Evans left the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he has made a concerted effort to strip away his “All-American Hero” image. He has accepted roles that are in direct contrast to Captain America, even taking on villain parts. As Cole, Evans operates as the comedic sidekick to Sadie. He utilizes some funny physical hijinks, such as when he drags his luggage around in the middle of an action scene. Of course, we can’t invest too much into this side of his personality. The writing frequently mentions that Cole was a wrestler, which acts as a reason (aka excuse) to help justify him being able to take down bad guys. In a way, this is a missed opportunity. It would have been fascinating to see Evans play out his character’s journey if he was completely incompetent, but oh well.
For the most part, Ghosted is a smooth ride. It doesn’t ask too much from the audience, and it doesn’t pretend to offer anything more than mild entertainment. This is best exemplified in the numerous cameos. Apparently, Evans, de Armas, and anyone with connections called in as many favors as possible, as we see plenty of familiar faces coming in to say hello. Of course, I will not reveal who shows up – I’ll leave that for you to discover. But these appearances are blatantly shoehorned into the plot. It takes us right out of the movie, telling us that the production clearly understands that this is all fun and games and not anything to be taken seriously.
And that’s the barometer for how much enjoyment one will have here. If you simply want to see friends hang out and do a bunch of cool stuff, then you’ll probably get what you’re asking for. If you’re looking for something more, then you will likely be disappointed. True Lies (1994) is arguably the pinnacle of this genre, as it combines charismatic actors, a very funny relationship story, and incredible action into a near perfect blockbuster spectacle. Chris Evans and Ana de Armas are more than capable performers but Ghosted settles for the routine rather than pushing the envelope. It does what is required but doesn’t strive to go beyond that. When you have actors at the top of their stardom, don’t you want them to be in something that’s more than just ok?