“Maybe there is a second CIA inside the CIA”, Rightly suspected the Turner played by Robert Redford in the beautiful thriller The Three Days Of The Condorthe iconic film of New Hollywood directed by Sydney Pollack in 1976. Who knows, maybe it was this double-game plot with a political background that intrigued James Gray, whose name was made a decade ago as an accredited director of The Gray Manadaptation of Mark Greaney’s novel of the same name.
There was even talk of Brad Pitt as an interpreter. Then she passed a lot of water under the bridge, eventually coming to a production distributed by Netflix of 200 million – the platform’s most expensive film to date – with brothers Anthony and Joe Russo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe directing – owners of the second most profitable film in the history of cinema, Avengers: Endgame – and Ryan Gosling as the protagonist.
Who, as we learn from the prologue, with the code name Six – because 007 had already been taken, this is the predictable joke – is a criminal and convict who, by virtue of his propensity for violence, is hired by the CIA for special operations with a license to kill, under the hat of the Sierra plan devised by Agent Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton). The idea, still wanting to bother a noble progenitor of New Hollywood, seems more or less that of Why A Murder by Alan J. Pakula, definitive work on the theme of paranoia in which the Parallax company selects pure sociopaths ready to be transformed into ruthless killers.
The assonances of The Gray Man with the seventies masterpieces they end here. And by the way, if you want to be picky, it’s not so much Six who turns out to be a sociopath – the flashbacks tell us about his past as a battered teenager, because the hero can’t have any real moral stains. On the other hand, a psychopath with free rein is Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), an independent agent whom the CIA in the person of its director of operations Carmichael invariably corrupt (Regé-Jean Page) hires to track down Six, who has the evidence of a terrible conspiracy.
Hansen unleashes an all-out fight, throwing a millionaire bounty on Six – not even we were in John Wick – and razing Prague to the ground in order to catch him and recover the evidence in the hands of the fugitive (a sequence so far-fetched and over the top as to shatter any suspension of disbelief even in the most sympathetic spectator). In order to blackmail the hero, the Luciferian Hansen also takes Fitzroy’s granddaughter hostage, to whom he is very attached (the girl is even cardiopathic and with bypass, to make the subplot even more tearful). Luckily there are still agents with straight backs in the CIA, like Ana De Armas’ Dani Miranda who decides to help Six.
The Gray Man it’s all here: two hours of unscratchable secret agents, chases, explosions, stunts, special effects and plot to the zero degree. The Russos are concerned with creating a psychological background, so to speak, for the main characters, with didactic flashbacks that explain traumas, personal relationships and strictly individual and individualistic feelings. The context, on the other hand, is of no importance. The supposed reasons behind such ruthless plans are imponderable and superfluous. To explain the plot hatched by Carmichael – who studied at Harvard: ah the ruling classes, my lady -, at a certain point we hear a dialogue in which it is said, literally, that “this is stuff of occult powers, far beyond Carmichael’s level“. And it is also mentioned here is the great “Old Man” to whom all this caciara – in the meantime agents and mercenaries are putting half of Europe to fire and sword – will not be too welcome. But you know, the wicked will find a way to cover up everything, this is the logic of refined indifferent pessimism of this kind of film.
At the time of The Three Days of the Condor the killers had the insinuating and seductive ways of Max von Sydow’s Joubert. Today we have to settle for the coarse ones of a rightly over the top Evans, while a good actor capable of many other subtleties like Gosling touches a character that does not require, indeed that does not have to possess any specific characterization. More generally, the works of the seventies always had an action and thriller structure that referred to a credible world, with precise notations, also underlined on a formal level (the photography of Gordon Willis of Pakula’s films, for example), of a historical nature. , social and collective psychology (the widespread feeling of post-Kennedian disillusionment and paranoia).
A movie like The Gray Man, on the other hand, he flatly refers only to himself, to the elementary narrative mechanism of a self-declared object of mind-harassing consumption. That of the Russo brothers it should be the start of a cycle – you can also understand this from the fact that some villains and some promising secondary characters are spared for the future – although one wonders if one really felt the need for yet another simplistic and smashing rinse of the Bond model (and Bourne, Mission Impossible, etc. ). We immediately return to the ancestors of forty and more years ago. For those who are satisfied, however, from 22 July The Gray Man is on Netflix.
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