Director: Elizabeth Banks
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart
Duration: 118 mins
KRS Releasing Ltd
Film not reviewed
Like many, I was a massive of 1970s TV hit Charlie’s Angels, (thank you, Rete 4 for regaling me with episodes for years notwithstanding the rubbish reception). The show debuted in September 1976 on American broadcast channel ABC, and followed the crime-fighting adventures of three beautiful women working for a private detective agency, The Townsend Agency, headed and bankrolled by a mysterious millionaire, Charlie, whose identity was never revealed.
Back then, Charlie’s Angels was one of a mere handful of TV shows with, not one, but three female leads.
Forty-three years later, things have shifted slightly in favour of women’s stories on the big and small screens, but there’s still a long way to go. “There are so few films with multiple female leads out there. I felt like Charlie’s Angels was a way to tell a story involving more than one female lead – three great, powerful women that have agency over their lives, and are the driving force behind the story,” says Elizabeth Banks, the multitasking actress/co-writer/director/producer behind the project. “These characters were women who worked in a man’s world and had to make their own way. You just hadn’t seen women kicking butt in any genre before – it was revolutionary. They really stood for something.”
“Every generation should have their own Charlie’s Angels,” says producer Elizabeth Cantillon. “The first round was reflective of that era of women’s liberation and unlocking the potential of women. The second, the earlier films (released in 2000 and 2003), were a celebration of women and women working together. Banks’ version is building on both of those ideas – women can do anything if given the opportunity, it’s about women supporting women at work. It’s a sisterhood, it’s inclusive, and it’s something that all women dream of – to be part of something – but we don’t see a lot of movies about. Expressing that was important to Banks, and it was important to me.”
But relaunching the brand was not so much about reinventing as reinvigorating. The starting point, and this lies at the heart of Banks’ vision for Charlie’s Angels, was to imagine where The Townsend Agency would be now, over 40 years later. In this new era, the company has gone global, activating an international network of Angels and Bosleys, their handlers – the code name adopted in honour of the original John Bosley, played here by Sir Patrick Stewart, with Banks herself stepping into the character of the first female Bosley.
The 21st-century Angels are in this incarnation are played by Kristen Stewart as Sabina Wilson and Ella Balinska as Jane Kano who are assigned to protect Elena Houghlin (played by Naomi Scott), a scientist who soon proves to be a valuable asset to the Agency.
As the free-wheeling, free-spirited hot shot of the team, Sabina is a total wild card. “I feel like if Sabina was a dog, she would be the mutt at the shelter that was definitely going to take a bullet for you, and I wanted to bring this levity to the character,” says Stewart. “In the beginning of the movie, Sabina seems the most social, outgoing… like she has all the friends in the world, but really, she’s just trying to find her team. She would do anything to have friends, and she just wants her family.”
A former MI-6 Agent, Jane is everything Sabina is not: “Strait-laced, determined, focussed,” is how Balinska describes her character; while Scott’s Elena is a brilliant scientist and engineer who has created Calisto, a sustainable energy source designed to revolutionise the way we power things. Her plot line provides the basis of the story - when her bosses rush her invention to market, she warns them there is a flaw in the system: in the wrong hands, it can be used as a deadly weapon. Unfortunately, her bosses turn out to be The Wrong Hands, so Elena turns to The Townsend Agency for help. And so the adventure begins…
Charlie’s Angels also stars Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin and Noah Centineo. The screenplay is by Banks from a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn.
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