Operation Fortune, Guy Ritchie directs Jason Statham in the new Sky Original. Review

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It was back in 1998, when thirty-year-old Guy Ritchie, an English director from Hertfordshire, made his feature film debut with a film that will make history: Lock & Stock – Madmen on the loose, a very original mix of very British black humor and action-movie made in the USA, the narrative of Irvine Welsh and the cinema of Danny Boyle, the r & b of James Brown and a hyperkinetic montage. Thus begins a very peculiar artistic parable, which will soon lead him to direct Brad Pitt (in a gypsy version) and to marry – and then divorce from – Madonna. Climbing the mountains of Hollywood and beaching on a questionable remake of Lina Wertmuller.

Jason Statham against artificial intelligence

Today it arrives on our screens with the latest one Sky Original, Operation Fortune, with supercast led by that Jason Statham that Ritchie himself had made his debut on the big screen after a career as a diver and model. At his side is Aubrey Plaza, a well-known American stand-up comedian seen in the series The White Lotus, here in the role of a charming computer expert, as witty as she is charming. Anyone who sees the film in the dubbed version (because everyone knows that the original version with subtitles is always available on Sky cinema, isn’t it?) will be able to enjoy the very sensual voice of Domitilla D’Amico, who – so to speak – is the dubber official of Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone and Margot Robbie.

The subtitle of the original version is “Ruse de guerre”, a French-speaking idiomatic phrase meaning “war stratagem”, that is: military deception against one’s adversary using creative, intelligent and unorthodox means. Pronounced at the beginning of the film Eddie Marsan, known face of British cinema and wonderful protagonist of Still Life by Uberto Pasolini. Here is Knighton, Her Majesty’s government official tasked with recovering a device known as “The Handle”, an advanced artificial intelligence that can be programmed to defeat any security system in the world. To do so, he relies on a team of secret agents led by the man who gives the film its title: Orson Fortune, alias Jason Statham, heavy-handed super-spy. Their special mission is to prevent this mysterious object (the most classic of the “MacGuffins”: a specious expedient that – from Hitchcock onwards – serves to motivate the actions of the characters and the unfolding of the plot) ends up in the hands of a loony arms dealer with the allure of Hugh Grant, an actor now in full control of his status as a veteran of the world stardom ( as evidenced by the sharp sarcasm with which he mocked the querulous chatter on the red carpet of the Oscars), who at the age of 63 has not lost a single gram of the charm that made him famous at the time of Four weddings and a funeral And Nothing Hilland who plays here delightfully saturated with self-satisfaction and self-irony.

The ultra-violence of Guy Ritchie’s cinema

But having said the plot, nothing was said, because what makes Ritchie’s cinema the strength is his twisted language, made up of that very personal mixture of rock music, synch noises, daring shots and supersonic editing. A paroxysmal lunapark all over the top that you either love or hate. And then there’s the real trademark of Ritchie’s production (yes, because the English filmmaker is also his own producer, here together with the revived Miramax which belonged to the Weinstein brothers): the choreographed blows, with the usual annexes and connected based on shootouts and chases, which have always been present in Guy’s filmography: unforgettable are those of the postmodern diptych on Sherlock Holmes, entrusted to the strange but well-matched couple Robert Downey Jr. Jude Law. In short, the hyper-realistic ultra-violence that he dominates in contemporary Anglo-Saxon cinema, the one that makes a lot of noise but not that bad, almost as if we were inside a cartoon (think, for example, of the tetralogy of John Wick).

Like in a James Bond movie

The most notable novelty in this case is the use of computer espionage which allows the contenders to sneak into the memories of their respective devices, discovering in real time the secret moves that are hatched on the opposing fronts in good time to be able to anticipate them. More generally, it is cybernetic technology that constitutes the soul of the story, the aforementioned “handle” is in fact also defined as a financial atomic bomb. An unavoidable theme: what is more current than artificial intelligence? Just think of the recent controversies about Chat GPT. And then there’s the glamorous guise of stateless settings, inevitable in any self-respecting spy story. Here we travel between London, Morocco, Madrid, Cannes, Los Angeles, Turkey and Doha Qatar, like not even in a James Bond film.

Speaking of Cannes, an interesting metalinguistic subplot should be mentioned, which curiously coincides with the 76th edition of the Festival of the same name (SPECIAL): Josh Hartnett’s character, Danny Francesco, is a capricious and spoiled movie star, picked up by hook or by crook on his private plane bound for Las Vegas and diverted to the French Riviera. He is the mole thanks to which the very complicated mechanism of the action team on a mission to save the world is set in motion and, consequently, the plot of the film.

To the tune of Burt Bacharach

That’s not all, still on the subject of metacinema, the good Guy enjoys inserting the quote from the cult scene of Butch Cassidy in which Paul Newman and Katharine Ross coo on a bicycle along the fields of Wyoming to the tune of Raindrops keep falling on my head composed by the late, recently deceased Burt Bacharach. Little tidbit of political current affairs: Operation Fortune, which was released in America on March 3 and here, as mentioned, direct to platform on April 17 exclusively on Sky, should have been released in 2022; but the outbreak of war in Ukraine prompted a change in the way Ukrainian gangsters are presented in the film, leading to a shift in distribution.