Saturday, June 22, 2024

“THE WASP”

THE STORY – In this taut, twisty psychological thriller, estranged friends Heather and Carla reunite over tea, only to unveil a dangerous and deceptive plot that will irrevocably alter their lives. As the two navigate a web of secrets and hidden agendas, the true nature of their meeting slowly comes to light, revealing a shocking and perilous reality that neither could have anticipated.

THE CAST – Naomie Harris, Natalie Dormer & Dominic Allburn

THE TEAM – Guillem Morales (Director/Writer) & Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 96 Minutes


In a movie that’s a masterclass in suspense, one of the most intriguing moments in “The Wasp” is revealed during the end credits. After the mention of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s screenplay, the credits unveil “based on the play by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.” The film isn’t strictly a two-hander, but with so much of the story unfolding around the two main actresses in one location, it’s evident that it’s a stage play adaptation. This isn’t a drawback, especially when director Guillem Morales injects some dynamic filmic elements to prevent it from feeling too static. Led by the acclaimed duo of Naomie Harris and Natalie Dormer, “The Wasp” weaves an enthralling, if somewhat sparse, narrative that hinges on revelations and hidden truths, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats until the very end.

The strength of “The Wasp” comes from its constantly evolving narrative, which switches itself up just as soon as the audience thinks they understand the story’s true purpose and the characters’ actual intentions. To describe it in full detail would ruin things, but from the beginning, it’s clear that something hidden lies under the story’s surface, waiting to break free. But at the start, we’re introduced to two women who used to be childhood friends before drifting apart and leading lives of distinctly opposing affluence. The film opens with Heather (Harris), a woman of apparently sizable means but stuck in a clearly unhappy marriage with her husband, Simon (Dominic Allburn). One day, she contacts Carla (Dormer), her estranged school friend, with promises of a proposition that would help lift the pregnant Carla out of her destitute situation.

After establishing itself with these expository details, the film essentially locks the two characters in Heather’s house, leading to an hour-long tête-à-tête where emotions and power dynamics vary from minute to minute. It’s undeniably enjoyable to watch, especially when the pair of powerhouse performers are firing delicious retorts at each other. But when all is said and done, the entire affair rings a bit hollow, as if the story’s primary purpose is to upend expectations above all else. The film makes a point to show how the past, especially a tumultuous childhood, can reverberate far into the future and affect one’s adulthood. However, many of its biggest surprises are revelations exclusively to the audience, not to the characters themselves, which cheapens what are clearly intended to be the film’s impactful moments.

However, Morales brings a cinematic flair to what easily could’ve been a flatly captured film. His most successful directorial flourishes are found in how he melds the past and the present, visually depicting how these characters’ histories come back to haunt them. Editing choices also underline these themes, with several startling match cuts placing the audience in Heather’s perspective as she’s forced to face the more upsetting parts of her childhood.

Harris is sensational as the deeply unwell Heather. The character is a deep well of insecurities and trauma, and Harris finds variety in her many outbursts. She’s equal parts worryingly fearful and terrifyingly fearsome, depending on the scene. Dormer is less compelling, mostly owing to the one-dimensional nature of her character. Carla has a brittle, unpleasant personality with a short fuse and, as she admits, no capacity for empathy. It’s clear she’s a product of her rough upbringing, but the writing rarely allows her the opportunity to show any other side of herself.

While Harris does her best, “The Wasp” doesn’t make much of a lasting impression. While the tense, twisty tale is enjoyable in the moment, it can’t help but feel fleeting, like the quick but potentially impactful lifespan of the titular insect.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Director Guillem Morales infuses cinematic magic into this play adaptation, which is primarily set in one location. Naomie Harris delivers a stellar performance, showcasing an impressively broad emotional spectrum.

THE BAD - Natalie Dormer plays a one-dimensional character and doesn't manage to find much nuance or variety in her. The screenplay relies on surprises to shock the audience rather than reveal anything new for the characters themselves.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Director Guillem Morales infuses cinematic magic into this play adaptation, which is primarily set in one location. Naomie Harris delivers a stellar performance, showcasing an impressively broad emotional spectrum.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Natalie Dormer plays a one-dimensional character and doesn't manage to find much nuance or variety in her. The screenplay relies on surprises to shock the audience rather than reveal anything new for the characters themselves.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"THE WASP"