Cuban Network (2019)

OLIVIER ASSAYAS

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

Alternate Title:  Wasp Network

France/Spain/Belgium, 2019CG Cinéma, Macaronesia Films, Nostromo Pictures, RT Features, Scope Pictures.  Screenplay by Olivier Assayas.  Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux, Denis Lenoir  Produced by Charles Gillibert, Rodrigo Teixeira.  Music by Eduardo Cruz.  Production Design by François-Renaud Labarthe.  Costume Design by Jürgen Doering.  Film Editing by Simon Jacquet.   Toronto International Film Festival 2019.

Édgar Ramírez plays a Havana pilot whose routine day turns out to be anything but when he steals a plane a flies it to Miami, upon arrival announcing that he would like to defect and become an American citizen. It’s the early nineties and Cuba’s future is precarious given the recent collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ramirez justifies leaving his wife (Penelope Cruz) to raise their daughter alone with the claim that he wants to help move his country forward in history and away from the oppression it has suffered under Castro’s rule. As he works with the Brothers To The Rescue operation, an initiative that sends pilots out from Florida to save balseros from drowning on their rafts in open water, fellow pilot Wagner Moura defects at Guantanamo and arrives in Miami a superstar among the Cuban ex-patriate community; he also joins the Brothers operation but seeming to be more interested in the fame that comes with political activism than the good it does to others. The twist, however, really sets in when Gael Garcia Bernal steps in as an operative sent by the Cuban government to plant pro-Castro spies in Miami who will prevent anti-Cuban terrorism from happening on their shores. Olivier Assayas returns to Latin America for the first time since his crime epic Carlos (also starring Ramirez) but with less memorable results, this one feels like it’s been cut down from a bigger movie and is merely the highlight reel of a miniseries. Cruz gives the character’s accent and class her best shot but never quite blends in with the scenery, she looks like a movie star slumming it the whole time, which diminishes the value of having a strong female perspective in a male-dominated true story.  Ana de Armas manages to make a deeper impression as Moura’s disillusioned wife, but that couple’s plot feels the least resolved of the many we get here. It’s a well made movie, but it should leave a longer impression than it does.

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