Wasp Network

Dept. of Squandered Talents


Note: There are some story spoilers in this review. But you know what, it really, really doesn’t matter.

Wasp Network is not quite what it could have, or should have been. A recent Netflix release, the movie tells the story of Cuban spies tasked with infiltrating an exile group in Miami who have been carrying out terrorist activities against the island nation. With that pitch, and a cast that includes Édgar Ramírez (who we had last seen committing the last ever crime on American soil), Wagner Moura (who we had last seen in Narcos, Season 2 as Pablo Escobar), Gael García Bernal (who won a Golden Globe for his turn in Amazon Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle), Ana De Armas (of Knives Out vomiting fame), Tony Plana (father of the titular Ugly Betty) and Penélope Cruz (you know who she is), this should have been a breakout hit. And yet…

Wasp Network just felt too disjointed and too confused to be anything remotely like what it should have been. Set in 1990, the movie opens with Ramírez’s René leaving his wife (Penélope Cruz) and their young daughter to defect to the U.S. from Cuba. You then see René, a pilot, settle into life in Miami, finding a job as a pilot instructor, then working for a Cuban liberation organisation helping spot refugees from the air. Then, for some reason, he’s a gardener. And then he joins a more militant Cuban liberation group, running drugs into the U.S. from South America.


Then you meet Moura’s Juan Pablo, whom – I kid you not – swims from Cuba to Guantanamo Bay, gets caught by the US military, and then sent to Miami where he sets up with his cousin. Oh, and he’s also a pilot. Juan Pablo then meets Ana De Armas, falls in love, and gets married. Oh, and also Juan Pablo is a famous actor. And a former military officer. Neither of those things really make a difference to this story so we can just move on.

And then suddenly at around the one hour mark, halfway into this two hour movie, the audience is introduced to García Bernal’s Viramontez, as he is told by his superior officers that he has passed his spy training (huh?) and that he will now go to Miami to head up the Wasp Network. He then goes home, and after his wife starts crying about him leaving her, he confesses to her that he’s a secret agent! And that he’s leaving under the guise of a post graduate study abroad trip to lead a group of anti-Castro agents! In Miami! 

This is then followed up with the most confusing decision ever; a narrator shows up. Halfway into this movie, the director decides to give the audience, a narrator. Not only that, but the narrator’s first job is to tell the audience that the order we’ve just seen things happen in the past hour, was wrong. Ramírez’s René arrived in the US in 1990, but García Bernal’s Viramontez arrives in 1991, and only then followed by Moura’s Juan Pablo in 1992. Why do this? Who knows? Why tell us now? Who cares?


The narrator then details the arrivals of six other agents, not only introducing their names, but also their cover and their missions. Don’t worry, we’ll never see these guys again.  The narrator then details how they communicate with each other, and how the Wasp Network then transmits and transfers that information back to Cuba. None of this matters to the story, so sure, spend two and a half minutes on it.

Now, we’re an hour and three minutes into this movie and we get a new title card. “Present Day.” Which is confusing because when the movie opens the title card said 1990. A “Present Day” title card would make the audience assume that it was 2020. But no. Almost ten minutes later, over real footage of a riot in Cuba, another title card appears that says, “The Same Day,” with the narrator showing up again to tell the audience that it is, in fact, 1995.

The Wasp Network ends on a down note. They are all apprehended by the FBI, and they all go to prison. There are a host of weird directorial decisions in this movie, from the reordering of the story’s timeline, to the weird use of title cards — at one point, during a terrorist bombing attack in Cuba, in a five minute sequence, there are nine title cards telling the audience the local time. At one point, in the middle of that five minute sequence, there were three title cards in a row, in one minute increments, 13 seconds apart. But the weirdest directorial decision is why make this movie at all? Who were the audience supposed to be supporting? Whose story is this? Is it the plucky, noble Cuban community in Miami, trying to free their homeland from the communist rule of Fidel Castro? Who, despite their noble ideals, get into inhuman acts of terrorism in Cuba, funded by drug running money? Or the Cuban spies, who are trying to fight back these terrorist insurgents by infiltrating them? We never know. Because it feels like no one on the production knew either. The consequence of which is a stellar South American cast that’s wasted in a message movie with no message.

Wasp Network
123 minutes
Director: Olivier Assayas
Screenplay: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Édgar Ramírez, Wagner Moura, Gael García Bernal, Ana De Armas, Tony Plana, and Penélope Cruz

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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