If you found yourself craving a full meal of Ana de Armas as a butt-kicking CIA agent after the appetizer serving in No Time to Die, Apple TV+ has got you covered. The Oscar-nominated Blonde survivor plays another unflappable American intelligence agent, as handy with her fists as her guns, in Ghosted, rekindling her Knives Out chemistry with Chris Evans, in amusing fish-out-of-water mode as a farmer unwittingly dragged along on a hair-raising, globe-hopping mission. Dexter Fletcher’s action-adventure rom-com doesn’t break the mold, but it’s fun and flashy enough to grab viewers in significant numbers.
Apple and Skydance have certainly thrown some resources at the glossy production, from the magnetic leads and elaborate action set-pieces right down to the major-name cameos that pop up in humorous guises. The script is the combined effort of seasoned Spider-Man team Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers with Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
The Bottom Line
If, ultimately, the film falls into a generic gene pool with other middling streamer originals like Netflix’s Red Notice or The Gray Man (the latter also a vehicle for Evans and de Armas) that probably won’t trouble the target audience.
It’s part of the machinery of voracious streaming platforms — they require constant feeding, but no matter how big and noisy and slick the attempts to replicate the studio blockbuster, they almost invariably end up being disposable entertainment. The absence of a theatrical splash generally ensures only the most ephemeral pop-culture imprint. They’re a commodity, in this case probably far less durable than most Apple products. That includes the Apple CarPlay prominently featured in the opening scene.
That said, Ghosted serves its purpose. It’s enjoyable enough, if not quite the rollicking thrill ride that Fletcher’s breathless pacing and steady barrage of vehicular chases, gunfire, explosions and mano a mano scraps in far-flung locations would have you believe.
De Armas’ Sadie and Evans’ Cole meet cute at a D.C. farmers’ market when she tries to buy a potted begonia and he refuses to sell it to her after she confesses that she travels too frequently for work to water it as required. He suggests she’d be better off with a low-maintenance cactus, which kicks off a running joke about Cole’s neediness and Sadie’s prickly isolation.
Despite their initial friction, they go on an impromptu date. They soak up picturesque Georgetown and race up the Exorcist steps before taking in the National Gallery of Art. But neither Sadie’s peak athletic condition nor her basic taste in painters (“I love Monet!”) make him suspect she might not be telling the truth about her job as an art curator. At the end of a full day and night of walking and talking slathered in random vocal tracks, they fall into bed and Cole is instantly smitten.
Back at his parents’ farm the next day, Cole’s mother (Amy Sedaris) and father (Tate Donovan) both seem thrilled that he’s met a woman he thinks might be “the one.” His teasing sister (Lizze Broadway) predicts he’ll scare her off fast with his usual clinginess, and when his stream of texts and emojis to Sadie are ignored, she appears to be right. But Cole realizes he left his asthma inhaler in Sadie’s backpack and a tracking app attached to the medical device allows him to trace her to London.
The fact that his condition is barely mentioned again despite him being put through a series of physical ordeals that would kill most asthmatics is just one of those screenplay contrivances it’s best to ignore. Likewise, Cole helping out with the foreshadowing by musing, “I think the trips that you plan the least are the ones that give you the most.” This from a man who is revealed never to have left the country.
Cole has previously been averse to unplanned trips, but when his mom suggests he should just show up in London to surprise Sadie (“It’ll be romantic!”), he goes for it. That turns out to be ill-advised when he follows her to Tower Bridge but gets abducted by a gang of thugs, convinced he’s a CIA golden boy code-named The Taxman. (You just know Apple has sprung for the Beatles song, which we’ll be hearing at a pivotal moment.)
Just as eager torturer Borislov (Tim Blake Nelson, working a chewy Russian accent) is about to deploy flesh-eating bugs to extract a passcode from Cole, who’s as panicked as he is bewildered, gun-toting Sadie bursts in to rescue him and take out a small army of villains. She’s the real Taxman, duh, and she’s underwhelmed by his romantic surprise and annoyed by the liability of having to keep him safe while she mows down bad guys.
That shifts them instantly back to antagonistic banter, notably throughout one of the film’s key roller-coaster action sequences, aboard a colorfully decorated bus, under assault as it careens around the mountainous Khyber Pass in Pakistan.
Fletcher conducts the high-speed chase more than competently, but it’s the sparks generated by de Armas and Evans that keep it buoyant. Sadie handles herself like a seasoned super-spy, never scared, even in one-against-multitudes situations. Cole bumbles his way to the occasional winning move, at one point using a gag-gift cactus as a weapon. The script could hardly be more schematic in their character breakdowns — he uses his parents’ farm as an excuse to avoid life; she uses her work to avoid getting close to anyone — but the charismatic leads sell it.
Sadie’s attempts to send Cole home fail, partly because Leveque (Adrien Brody), a disgraced former French intelligence agent turned arms dealer, remains convinced he’s the Taxman. Leveque and his chief henchman Wagner (Mike Moh) have gotten their hands on Aztec, a biochemical weapon capable of wiping out America’s Eastern Seaboard. But it’s useless without that missing passcode and their buyer is growing impatient.
The action shifts from Pakistan to an island in the Arabian Sea and back to D.C., where Sadie gets into trouble for going rogue. But CIA brass (Anna Deavere Smith) determines that they need to keep Cole around as bait, particularly once his knowledge of crops proves useful in deciphering a mystery. The spin-cycle climax high above the Washington skyline is a reminder of why dining in revolving restaurants is rarely a good idea.
Aside from the famous faces turning up as bounty hunters and a former lover still carrying a torch for Sadie, nothing terribly surprising happens. But Ghosted is engaging on its own undemanding terms, never lingering over the body count and cushioning the violence in a light, playful tone. That also means there’s never much sense of any real danger. Whipped along by a team of three busy editors and a string of punchy needle drops (The Knack’s “My Sharona” in Pakistan? Sure, why not?), the movie is pacy popcorn entertainment with deluxe leads. It goes down painlessly, even if you’ll likely forget it the minute it’s over.
As she showed in No Time to Die, de Armas can inject sexy insouciance and appealing personality into action-hero badassery, while Evans is clearly enjoying himself, playing down his hunky Captain America credentials to become the babe who needs saving. Naturally, Cole gradually finds his mojo even in the tightest of spots, while Sadie rethinks her strict “mission over man” policy and comes to appreciate his romantic spirit. Who wouldn’t want these two to be together?