The film had already sparked controversy after its pre-release at the last edition of the Venice Film Festival, in September, especially because the plot, set between Havana and Miami, is accompanied by an internationally renowned cast. And now it gives something to talk about after its premiere on Netflix.
While Wasp Network tries to catch the viewer with a plot of espionage, from the dramaturgical point of view, he gets to confuse with endless scenes and constant incongruities, which jump to the view of the viewer who knows the subject or who has lived on the island. The lack of background exudes through the pores of each character and takes them away from the truth. Perhaps there is one of the details that allow devaluing the fil me: the characters lack truth. And it is difficult to transmit what you do not have.
In their unsuccessful attempt to weave together the stories of those five agents of Castroism, who infiltrated the United States in the early 1990s in search of information that could thwart efforts by Cuban exiles to liberate their country from a totalitarian regime, Assayas takes the figure of the agent as the central axis René González, played by actor Édgar Ramírez.
In Ramírez’s skin we see a man who, blinded by absurd ideals, abandons his wife and daughter on the island and who betrays his own country of birth because he was born in the United States and agrees to come to spy on behalf of a foreign government. Penélope Cruz plays Olga, González’s wife, a hurt and apparently conformed woman, who has to fight to get ahead with her daughter in Cuba in the midst of deprivation.
Neither Ramírez nor Cruz convince with their performances. The Venezuelan actor fails to convey the fanaticism that González must have felt to risk being part of the espionage network to which Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González also belonged.
On the other hand, the Spanish, muse of Almodóvar, tries so hard to imitate the accent of a Cuban who completely forgets the emotional side of the controversial character, she did not even show them in the scene that recreates the family reunion at the airport of Miami after so many years of separation.
The only Cuban in the main cast is Ana de Armas, however her character’s dialogues with that of the Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, who plays the spy Juan Pablo Roque, take place in English. Without being able to mention that De Armas, being Cuban, when assuming this role, should have been careful to inquire a little into the life of Ana Margarita Martínez, the person she had to represent, victim of a deception and ruthlessly used to achieve the political ends of the spy Juan Pablo Roque, of whom he learned the truth the day after the demolition of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, for which Roque had responsibility.
Gael García Bernal was the one who managed to interpret the Cuban more naturally. But he also fails to shine in the role of Gerardo Hernández, leader of the espionage organization that was dismantled by the FBI.
Among all the scenes, the show those of the one-year-old girl who personifies the baby that René and Olga had in Miami. Cruz holds back tears at the situations her character is experiencing. She does not even manage to move the anguished face that De Armas tries to make when in her character, Ana Margarita Martínez, she discovers that she was deceived by Roque, the alleged deserter pilot who turned out to be a double agent.
Although the magic of the seventh art could sustain the actors to develop a plot foreign to their realities, cultures or sense of belonging, the purpose of cinema, which, in addition to entertaining, should be to portray societies and document history, must not admit falsehoods. for the sole purpose of glorifying a repressive political system that tramples on human dignity and mutilates the dreams of those who suffer from it, a system that in the eyes of the world has proven to be unsustainable.
Olivier Assayas should be asked what motivated him to bring this story to the cinema. And even if the latter tried to explain that it is a work of art and should be considered as such, beyond good and evil or above any political thought, whatever its response, it would not convince those who already offended.
Assayas’ film also undermines the reputation of activist groups within which the espionage network infiltrated, such as the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue, insinuating that the latter, who was dedicated to rescuing Rafters fleeing Cuba in flimsy boats exposing their lives in the Florida Straits, had some kind of link with drug trafficking.
Abominable is the scene that so carelessly recreates the shooting down, in 1994, of the two planes of Brothers to the Rescue, with combat vessels under the command of the Cuban Air Force, a fact that shocked the Cuban-American community in Miami, a terrorist act by part of the regime that Cubans on this side do not forget.
Among so many inconsistencies and falsehoods, two truths could be rescued: that Cubans pass those of Cain to leave Cuba, because the island’s authorities tend to hinder the exit plans by requesting at the last minute some document to continue the process, such as happened to the spy’s own wife when she decided to meet him again in Miami.
There are so many wrongs committed in that film that even the trajectory of personalities of recognized leadership such as José Basulto and Jorge Mas Canosa were questioned.
Amidst the controversy that has unleashed The wasp network, there is already a request on the Change.org platform to be removed from Netflix. If iconic productions like gone With the Wind have been boycotted these days, it would not be surprising if Wasp Network the same luck. And it should happen, with much more reason.