Ava is a 2020 spy action thriller directed by Tate Taylor and starring Jessica Chastain. It follows Ava (Chastain), an assassin working for a shadowy organisation who soon becomes hunted by her own, led by the mysterious Simon (Colin Farrell). Between missions and death threats, Ava is aided by her handler Duke (John Malkovich) while she attempts to resolve some long-held family issues with her mother (Geena Davis), sister (Jess Weixler) and ex (Common).
From the outset, Ava appears to be like your typical female assassin style film – a loud, stylish electro/techno soundtrack overlaying an assassination featuring wigs, stylish clothes and cars and every other spy cliché you’d come to expect from a film like this. The only truly original and enjoyable thing in this opening scene is Ioan Gruffudd’s shady businessman, who looks like he’s having a whale of a time relishing playing a bad guy for a change. However what you don’t see coming with Ava after this initial scene is that instead of being a full-on action film, it turns into a family melodrama with a few fight scenes thrown in almost as an afterthought.
Ava is a characterless film full of clichés, and lacking in any personality whatsoever. The spy and action elements, when we eventually see them that is, are entirely unoriginal and have been done so much better in any other spy film you could think of. The fight scenes are surprisingly dull and the camera work only results in highlighting how staged and choreographed the scenes are, they just don’t look real. It isn’t helped by all of the family drama either, with a large number of conversational dialogue scenes taking over the majority of the short but feels so long run time. It wouldn’t be too bad if these were scripted well but I’m afraid like everything else in this film, the script is lacklustre and clichéd.
Character development is poor and banal too, with the majority of the spy-related characters lacking in any form of personality or likability. Ava herself is the worst, she reminded me of a personality-less robot who has no depth or emotions, no matter how much the opening credits scene or family interactions try to tell us otherwise. This film has really done it’s stellar cast a huge injustice and gives them absolutely nothing to work with.
Even the plot suffers from a complete absence of originality and seems to have been kept as vague as possible, whether on purpose or because the writers just couldn’t be bothered I’m not sure. The shadowy organisation that Ava, Duke and Simon all work for is never identified or discussed in any real detail. All we learn about them is that they employ assassins to make hits on possibly shady people, with no further elaboration on why or what these people have done wrong, which Ava herself seems fascinated about as we see her questioning her victims as they’re about to die. I’m all for creating a mysterious atmosphere giving away just enough to keep us intrigued, but I’m afraid this doesn’t work for Ava as it just comes across as lazy and complacent with sloppy writing.
I couldn’t help but compare Ava to Atomic Blonde, another female-led assassin film that is worlds apart from this. Ava is lacking in everything that made Atomic Blonde – a fun watch, with style, substance and some brutal (but well-executed) fight scenes – and I really wish Ava had followed the same formula as at least this would have made it watchable. As it is, it’s a completely dull and clichéd spy film lacking in pretty much everything.
Ava is available to watch on Netflix now
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