The New Spy Film Franchise is Here and Here to Stay

It seems that every other movie coming out in this generation is about some sort of special agent or in this case an assassin. American Assassin, directed by Michael Cuesta is no exception to that. Much like movies such as the James Bond films or the Jason Bourne movies, American Assassin spotlights Dylan O’Brien, who plays the role of Mitch Rapp, a character that has a unique and special set of skills that help him along his mission against terrorism.

The Guts of the Film, What Does It Consist of?

Throughout the movie, Cuesta throws many unexpected twists and turns that keep us as viewers on the edge of our seat during this roller coaster of a movie. Starting off with a calm and relaxing scene that quickly turns horrific gets us engaged right from the beginning. By grabbing your attention right away, Cuesta knows he will have it for the remainder of the movie.

The film is jam packed with action, however it has its moments where things really seem to slow down and cause the viewer to focus and contemplate what is taking place at that moment in the movie. Doing this allows Cuesta to add very specific and subtle details in even the most action packed parts of the movie where you wouldn’t expect to be focused enough to catch them, however, that is exactly what you do.

The Artistry

Cuesta not only makes this movie enjoyable to watch but also makes it a visually appealing work of art. Taking place in various cities across the world that are well known by pretty much anyone such as Rome, London, and other various places in England and Europe. By showing off these beautiful places while not getting away from the story for even a second is truly a work of art that is very hard to pull off.

Appealing to Todays Culture

To go along with the artistic side of this film that makes it enjoyable to watch, this film really appeals to today’s generation in a verity of ways. One of those ways being the use of technology. By that I don’t mean the cool spy technology used in movies such as the umbrella that shields bullets from the Kingsman films. No, I mean how modern technology is used and how often it is used throughout the movie. An example is the first scene where Mitch is seen filming his girlfriend on his phone as they are swimming and as he is about to propose, likely to be posted to some social media. There are many instances, like the example just given, where modern technology that we use every day are used for the same reasons we do. This is one way that Cuesta makes this a movie that we millennials can relate to.

On top of the technology aspect of the film, Cuesta uses our tendency’s as millennials to be rebellious and play to the beat of our own drum and applies them to the main character, Mitch Rapp. Being a millennial and having a personality like this makes it easy for a generation so big be able to relate to him and feel engaged to the movie.

With terrorism being such an important and sensitive topic in today’s society, making a movie about it is hard to pull off. However, that is exactly what Cuesta does, with a main audience such as the US, sadly, terrorism is something we deal with on a regular basis. This being the case, Cuesta uses that emotion and makes us really root for Rapp and his efforts to take down these monsters.

What Happens?

With no back story, it is hard to feel an emotional connection to Rapp. Cuesta uses the opening scene to fix this when Rapp’s new fiancé is fatally shot in a horrific terrorist attack moments after Rapp had just proposed to her. This provides us with an emotion towards Rapp that gives us somewhat of an unconscious reason to root for him other than the fact he is going after these awful terrorist leaders.

After the incident on the beach, Rapp takes it upon himself to go after the man that shot his fiancé and has an ultimate goal to take them all down. He trains himself for months, grows a beard, and learns Islamic scripture all so he can infiltrate this terrorist group. He stays up late chatting with these terrorists online trying to find a way to gain enough trust to permeate their group. Soon his actions and late night chats are detected by the CIA. Shortly after they bring him in for questioning. Deputy Director Irene Kennedy, played by Sanaa Lathan, brings him in and sends him to an ex-navy SEAL for training.

Sent to the house of an ex-navy SEAL Stan Hurley, played by Michael Keaton. Here, Rapp and a group of other agents in training are put to a verity of physical and mental test that use the likes of virtual reality to hand to hand fisticuffs. Rapp quickly reminds Hurley of a former highly talented student of his, who is now their number one target after he is discovered purchasing plutonium in Poland. As things start to heat up and real problems start to arise, Rapp is quickly thrown into action and put into a mission. Although Hurley doesn’t believe that Rapp is quite ready for the field, Deputy Director Kennedy informs him there is not enough time and they have to deploy the mission now.

A New Face

After years of James Bond and Jason Bourne it’s finally time for a new face to step into the spotlight of special agent films. Not only is Mitch Rapp a refreshing new face, get used to him because he is here to stay. Much like the Bond and Bourne films, American Assassin has the potential to be something special that can last a long time. With a young and talented actor such as Dylan O’Brien, the films would have a promising star they can rely on for any future sequels. On top of that, what many may not know is that this film is based on series of novels written by Vince Flynn. After Flynn’s death, Kyle Mills decided to continue the series, recently publishing the 16th book in the series this past September. So, with a solid and strong cast and a series of novels with plenty of storylines to go off, it seems to me that this generation has found their spy franchise.

Who are They?

Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien, is a young man fueled by the terrorist attack that resulted in the death of his fiancé. Employed by the CIA you quickly realize he is very aggressive and willing to take the risk that many others wouldn’t. O’Brien does a fantastic job playing the role and engages the viewer in a verity of ways. This impressive performance by O’Brien can be attributed to his pervious role as Thomas in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: Scorch Trials. In both films, his character Thomas plays a leadership role and is willing to take the risk and do anything within his power to help him and the people within his group survive, much like Rapp.

Stan Hurley, played by Michael Keaton, is an ex-navy SEAL training up and coming CIA agents. He is a very strict and affirmative trainer, and when you train under him it’s either his way or the highway. Keaton plays this role so artistically at moments you feel like he’s the wise old man guiding Rapp throughout the mission but at the same time he’s the ex-navy SEAL willing to kill at any given moment. Somewhat like his role in Birdman you get to experience many different sides of Keaton and see what he’s able to bring to the table.

Common Theme Among Spy Movies

Watching spy movies such as James Bond and The Taken trilogy and now American Assassin there seems to be a common reoccurring theme, vengeance. In this film, the obvious source of vengeance is from the terrorist attack that killed Rapp’s fiancé. This continued to drive Rapp throughout the movie in his counter terrorism pursuit. In another spy film such as Skyfall you can see vengeance from both the villain and the hero. In the film the villain, Silva, is one of M’s (Head of Secret Intelligence) former agents. In the past M decided to sacrifice Silva for the sake of the mission. That is the fuel behind Silva’s vengeance where he later uses that to blow up the British Secret Intelligence Headquarters and tries to expose all their secret agents to the world. On the hero side of things, Bonds vengeance is fueled by the fact that his agency’s headquarters was blown up and that the result of certain actions has put his bosses job in jeopardy. So, unlike American Assassin vengeance can be seen on both sides in Skyfall.

In the films in the Taken trilogy vengeance is seen throughout all three movies. In the first you see it when Bryan does everything in his power to get his daughter back after she was kidnapped by human traffickers, this includes killing and torturing anyone who gets in his way. In the second vengeance can be seen through the perspective of the villain. In this one the leader of this mafia and terrorist group tries to get back at Bryan for what he did to his son in the previous movie. And finally, in the third after being framed for the killing of his ex-wife, Bryan tried to seek vengeance by finding the real killers. By looking at these examples you can tell that vengeance is a common theme throughout movies of this genre and American Assassin is no exception, this is a good thing however because it seems to be working.


Grade: A

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