Movie Review: Netflix's 'Wasp Network' Tries To Bring The Sting

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“Wasp Network” is a movie reminiscent of the ones that you would have easily found airing on cable networks in marathon sessions on Sundays back in the late 90s or early 2000s. There is one thing those movies did not have, and that is the star-wattage of Ana de Armas and Penelope Cruz. Director Olivier Assayas centers his latest on an intriguing part of history.

A tale about agents claiming to have defected from Cuba are welcomed by “fellow” exiles in Miami, Florida. All the while, they are actually working to thwart groups who carry out terrorist acts against Fidel Castro’s communist regime. In this respect, “Wasp Network” tries to walk a thin line as it investigates the people behind the politics, yet does little to criticize Castro or communism.

“Wasp Network” is a confusingly laid out and rendered film, though. It is engrossing despite switching back and forth between numerous characters and showing two of them interact when they apparently would not of according to the end of the movie.

Another issue comes in “Wasp Network,” asserting that its Olga did not know her husband had left to spy in Florida when she would have fully supported him. There was no need for subterfuge within the marriage. In this regard and several others, it feels like “Wasp Network” holds back from the audience, only offering a surface glimpse at the situation.

Wagner Moura gives an excellent performance as Juan Pablo Roque. Still, Netflix viewers familiar with Moura’s tour de force work in the first two seasons of “Narcos” as Pablo Escobar will be disappointed that he does not get more to do in fellow Netflix release, “Wasp Network.” To its credit, Escobar is name-dropped as a seeming wink to Moura and his turn as the drug lord.

Going opposite Wagner Moura is rising superstar, Ana de Armas, who is luminous as Ana Margarita Martรญnez, the love interest of Moura’s Juan Pablo. That she and Moura’s performances and their characters get lost in the shuffle of this ensemble-oriented endeavor feels like a lost opportunity to have something more for Moura and de Armas to play.

Not to mention, there had to be more to the story than what “Wasp Network” portrayed in its limited time on the couple. There is an arc to what is shown with some missing pieces scattered in between. You cannot help thinking that the story of Juan Pablo and Ana Margarita earned more time than that. To their credit, in their time on-screen Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas are brilliant.

Of course, more focus on them would have meant missing Penelope Cruz’s latest fantastic performance as Renรฉ’s devoted wife, Olga, and that would have been a massive loss. Cruz gives another bravura turn as she reminds viewers of her remarkable ability to grab your heartstrings and never let them go. 

Her screen partner, Edgar Ramirez (“The Girl on the Train”), seems to benefit from their co-stardom, giving one of his better performances to date. Oliver Assayas is blessed to have such talent in front of the camera because “Wasp Network” angles itself on their strength. The Netflix film would be missing something huge in the department of character development without them.

“Wasp Network” feels like a rehash of what it claims as facts and not a historical drama. For whatever reason, it is highly reminiscent of Tom Cruise starrer “American Made,” which centered on Pablo Escobar associate, Barry Seal. Another slice of recent history that did not quite get the feature-length dive it deserved. 

All told, the movie sheds light on an incident that many may not have known about. One in which viewers can draw their own conclusions and decide to do further research to clarify. Personally, it certainly does not feel objective in its viewpoint. As a movie, the silence of “Wasp Network” on certain matters such as Fidel Castro’s regime is stinging.

Rating: 6.2/10

Wasp Network” is currently streaming on Netflix, along with a lot of great content that is now on the service.