Wasp Network is one of the more intriguing releases of 2020 and one of the most convoluted. Writer-director Olivier Assayas (Carlos, Personal Shopper) attempt at adapting Fernando Morais’ book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, is a misfire. While there’s no shortage of talent in this terrific cast, Assayas fails to construct a narrative in the film that will allow viewers to care about these individuals. The story itself is quite fascinating, and how it didn’t translate on-screen is beyond comprehension.
The film centers around René González (Édgar Ramírez) is a Cuban pilot who defects to the United States seeking a new life. In short order, he manages to connect with a group of Cuban exiles in South Florida known as the Wasp Network. The group is led by operative Manuel Viramontez a.k.a. Gerardo Hernandez (Gael García Bernal). Their mission was to spy on American soil sending back intelligence to the pro-Castro government about American activities. The film is based on the true story of The Cuban Five, who were all arrested and convicted of spying on the United States for a foreign government. Wasp Network has an all-star cast, including Penélope Cruz, Wagner Moura, Ana de Armas, and Leonardo Sbaraglia.
The highlight of the film would have to be Cruz’s portrayal of Olga (René’s wife). Cruz’s performance was very nuanced and undoubtedly emotional. Olga seemingly was symbolic of many women whose husbands attempt to defect in hopes of providing a better life for their families. She attempts to balance her overwhelming loneliness by making sure her daughter has food on the table. Truthfully, if anyone were just to examine these performances, it would be hard to fault in their performances. What sunk this film was writing. There’s simply too much backstory and extraneous elements inserted into this story, which will leave audiences puzzled.
Assayas delivers a very stylish and polished final product that’s lacking in compelling content. It’s a shame cause the story of Cuban nationals immigrating to America and becoming agents sounded damn good to me.