WASP NETWORK, an ambitious fact-based drama written & directed by Olivier Assayas, was adapted from Fernando Morais’ book “The Last Soldiers of the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five”. Released long enough in 2020 to gross $1,422,000 at a few venues worldwide, it was then shifted over to Netflix.
In the 1990s, as part of the ongoing U.S. stealth war on Cuba, anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Florida feel the end justifies means, which include sabotage, drug smuggling and using Central American recruits to plant bombs so as to wreck Cuba’s tourist market. In response, Fidel sends undercover operatives, disguised as defectors, to Miami. There they will infiltrate the exile’s front organizations and fight back to preserve the Revolution. Both sides see themselves as patriots.
Handsomely shot By Yorick Le Saux and Denis Lenoir, it was filmed on location in Cuba, Florida, Spain and the Canary Islands. It’s certainly interesting, due to the subject and a top-line cast, but the labyrinthine plot machinations, timeline juggling and multiple character threads are more than 127 minutes can really handle (a mini-series would’ve been a better venue). Despite solid work from the actors, and a sleek production, it’s unfortunately less compelling as human drama. Too diffuse to ground itself enough to arouse emotional pull, with several key characters remaining remote, after much detailed foreplay the wrap-up sighs into anti-climax.
A decent history lesson (you can tell it hit nerves by the vociferous, near-hysterical anti-Castro slams it gets in online forums seeking to flood it with thumbs-down–and a rabid middle finger) but regrettably it’s just not fully involving or satisfying as entertainment. Still good, though, for watching the most personable cast do their thing—Penélope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez, Wagner Moura, Gael García Bernal and Ana De Armas in the main roles, with Leonardo Sbaraglia and Tony Plana in support.