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21st April 2023

Ghosted review: Ana de Armas and Chris Evans’ charm can’t rescue this spy rom-com

Apple’s first mainstream action film is flat, lazily written, and instantly forgettable.

Akhil Arora, a member of the Film Critics Guild and a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic

Ana de Armas as Sadie Rhodes and Chris Evans as Cole Turner in Ghosted
Ana de Armas as Sadie Rhodes and Chris Evans as Cole Turner in Ghosted // Photo: Apple TV+

Ghosted—the new action rom-com starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas, now streaming on Apple TV+—knows it’s a movie. Roughly 90 minutes into this 106-minute spy caper, Evans’ character says a line someone would only utter in a movie. (To be frank, I can’t imagine anyone saying a lot of Ghosted’s dialogues in real life.) And that’s fine. I’m all for a self-aware film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, wants to have fun with its genre and the associated tropes, and delivers a good time at the movies.

Unfortunately, Ghosted doesn’t proceed like that for the most part. Sure, the woman is the spy here and the man is the love interest, in contrast to what tends to usually be the case. But it’s no Deadpool or Knives Out, despite how hard it tries. (Ghosted has even recruited Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick—alongside Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, writers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man movies.) A cameo-laden scene halfway through the film where everyone dies is meant to elicit chuckles, but it just doesn’t work. It feels empty and abrupt—it reminded me of the excesses of Bullet Train—and doesn’t fit with the film’s tone and approach elsewhere.

Take for instance what follows the aforementioned scene. Less than a minute after Ghosted treats human beings as joke fodder, Evans turns around to de Armas and says: “I’m trying to connect, someone just died.” The character is completely sincere, even though we’ve just been dragged through a parody. What is going on? The cameos—like the film itself—are ultimately fluff and meaningless, meant to drive social media chatter in the hopes of getting some extra plays (or subscribers) for Apple TV+.

All over the place

This scattered all-over-the-place approach also defines Ghosted’s emotional throughline. There’s just no consistency. At first, they are falling for each other. The next minute, they can’t stand each other. But shortly after, they’re kissing again. And then they are back to arguing. I’m not saying you can’t make this push-and-pull work—if anything, it’s the bread and butter of a rom-com—but Ghosted doesn’t know how to do that. To make matters worse, instead of just there being sexual tension that everyone recognises, Ghosted feels the need to call out its subtext—in one scene, someone actually says the word “subtext”—like every single time. Cut it out!

The movie largely fails with its humour, sincerity, and romance. On top of that, the action isn’t anything to write home about. Ghosted director Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman) is phoning it in—he has never directed action and that’s clear as day, given how generic and bland it is here—and layers in a mix of pop songs from Dua Lipa to Bruno Mars to drive his sequences.

The plot of Ghosted

Ghosted begins with a meet-cute at a farmer’s market, between art curator Sadie Rhodes (de Armas) who’s grieving a colleague’s death, and to-be-author Cole Turner (Evans) who’s returned to help his family farm. Their coffee date turns into a full day around Washington D.C.—and the two end up in bed, even though Sadie has been advised by her therapist not to make any big moves at this vulnerable time. (Thanks to the charm of Evans and de Armas, the rom-com stuff is done well, and the first 20 minutes are heavenly compared to what we got from there on.)

Chris Evans as Cole Turner in Ghosted
Chris Evans as Cole Turner in Ghosted // Photo: Apple TV+

Except Cole is quite a few steps ahead of her, as he thinks Sadie is “the one”. After one date? C’mon, man. Anyway, after the needy and smothering Cole—everyone around him thinks he comes off too strong—doesn’t hear from Sadie after leaving like a gazillion texts, he takes after her to London. (Again, this kind of outlandish behaviour is suited for a movie.) This is especially baffling given Cole, despite wanting to travel, has never been outside the US. Mistaken for someone else, Cole is kidnapped and whisked off thousands of miles away east. And who comes to his rescue?

(Since this reveal is both in the Ghosted trailer and the official synopsis on Apple TV+, I don’t consider it a spoiler. But you’ve been warned.) It’s Sadie—turns out, she’s a CIA agent. The art curator bit was a cover. From there, Ghosted launches into the standard trappings of an action film. There are chase sequences where the henchmen fire like Stormtroopers; a bunch of far-flung locales is thrown in but there’s no role for any locals; and everyone’s after a MacGuffin that drives the plot.

Ghosted is a little outrageous

Unfortunately, as you can probably guess by this point, I wouldn’t term anything that happens particularly exciting. There are a few good moments, borne out of Sadie’s eye-rolls as she deals with having to repeatedly save a guy who stalked her and flew across an ocean after she ghosted him. Despite that situation, Ghosted loves to make its female badass feel bad for her choices, even when she prioritises the guy she barely knows over her save-the-world job. It’s a little outrageous.

Ana de Armas as Sadie Rhodes in Ghosted
Ana de Armas as Sadie Rhodes in Ghosted // Photo: Apple TV+

The increasingly convoluted and flabbergasting narrative doesn’t help—the settings don’t contribute in any way (why even travel the world?), the villains’ decisions seem poorly informed (Adrien Brody is doing his best to audition as a Bond villain), and the CIA is turned into an ill-conceived punchline in the hilariously irrational climax (just so Sadie and Cole can be the heroes). And not wanting Cole to feel like a gallant in distress, Ghosted allows him to handle himself well with every goon and henchman—yes, he’s played Captain America but Cole is a farmer and author. It’s more than a tad unbelievable.

Big budgets, big Apple

Though Apple TV+ has won major accolades for its original film output—it’s the first (and as yet only) streaming service to win the Oscar for best picture—it hasn’t had the kind of mindless, broad appeal high-profile movies with the wattage of Hollywood’s biggest stars that attract attention. Ghosted is the beginning of a new push of sorts for Apple.

Henry Cavill is leading an ensemble in the $200-million spy film Argylle, expected to be the start of a new franchise. Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum are front and centre for the space race movie Project Artemis which cost Apple over $100 million. Brad Pitt is starring in a Formula One movie from the director of Top Gun: Maverick, with a budget north of $140 million. Pitt and George Clooney are two rival fixes in the heist thriller Wolves from the guy behind the MCU Spider-Man movies. And Matt Damon is a thief on the run in fellow heist thriller The Instigators from the director of Edge of Tomorrow.

But its first foray into this space—Ghosted—is flat, lazily written, and instantly forgettable. I wish I too could’ve stepped away like one of those big-name cameos. Quick, abrupt, and gone before you know it.

Ghosted released on April 21 on Apple TV+ worldwide.

Akhil Arora

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