- Directed by Pierre Morel
- February 5, 2010 (United States)
An aid to the American ambassador to France wants to get into the big leagues in the CIA and finally gets his chance when he is paired with an out there agent to stop a terrorist attack on an international conference.
From Paris with Love was a random purchase by me from a local used movie outlet. I believe it was one of their buy two and get the third free sales and I saw this and the title intrigued me. Plus it validated my use of the sale as it was my third item. At worst it was a bad movie I would be paying nothing for. Fortunately I found something I liked.
John Travolta is a very hit or miss actor in general. He can be either really amazing or just plain awful. There is no in-between it seems at this point in his career which is unfortunate because when he is amazing, he is knock your socks off amazing. I do not know how he goes between such extremes, but he needs to figure that out and fix it.
Travolta is quite engaging as crazy CIA agent Charlie Wax. The character is manic and at times you wonder if he has a screw loose as Wax’s methods seem to be waffle between random and being a jerk but there is a point to his madness. He does not do things just because. The character of Wax is charming and even endearing despite a long list of bad qualities. Travolta needs to bring more of that to his performances on a regular basis.
Wax’s assistant while in Paris is James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who has aspirations of entering the big leagues of the spy game but is stuck doing low level intelligence work until he is tasked with getting Wax out of custody of French customs where he is verbally abusing customs agents while refusing to give up several cans of an energy drink. Reese eventually does get him out and Wax states he is in Paris to dismantle a drug ring. As the film goes along it is revealed to be a lie and in reality Wax is there to track down Pakistani terrorists.
Meyers was not bad. He shined in his moments with Wax and had a perpetual aura of “WTF!?” the whole time. His moments with his fiancé Caroline (Kasia Smutniak) were a little less effective though I think that could have been fixed with a few more scenes showing their relationship. There was just not much built between the two characters.
The plot is interesting, and the action scenes are often seriously over the top butt kicking. But the characters do not always just shake off what has happened to them and move on. There is a subplot for instance of Reese beginning to question whether or not he is cut out for doing what he wants to do. The tough decisions and his life being in danger are in sharp contrast to the fantasy he had and he has difficulty coming to terms with it. It wears on him.
Luc Besson wrote the screenplay for From Paris with Love and it definitely has his touches and probably could have used him directing. Not that I am saying this film is bad but movies with frenetic action and bonkers characters are his jam. He really shines directing this type of thing and while the direction by Pierre Morel is not bad, things would have improved with Besson behind the wheel.
There are twists and turns as the story goes along. One of the one of them is that this low-level agent has been targeted by the terrorist cell to be used to infiltrate the embassy with his girlfriend being part of the plot. That revelation always made me wonder if it was possible Wax was paired with the Reese because they knew. They never explicitly state it in the movie, but it is one of those things that exists in my head canon.
This is one of those fun films that never quite connected with audiences for some reason despite have a mix that should have been a success. It is a little over the top. It has interesting characters and a great setting and tons of action. It starts off slow but once Travolta’s character steps into the picture it starts building and building until the finale. The movie never talks down to the viewer and never tries to go dumb for easy consumption. Where things went wrong with the audience I do not know.
From Paris with Love is a great action thriller. It is not the deepest film, but it is a very entertaining film with a good cast and a great plot. Watch it!