WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Charlie's Angels, is in theaters now.
Charlie's Angels is, above all else, a blockbuster action film, and the female-led cast are thrown headlong into a number of creative and impressive shoot-outs, escapes and fights over the course of the film. The Angels prove more than capable during all of these moments, showcasing a wealth of physical skills and technical know-how.
But, despite nominally being an organization that also trades in stealth, the titular Angels are not very good at the spying part of their spy jobs.
(ALMOST) FULLY QUALIFIED
The Angels are shown throughout the film to be incredibly capable in almost every situation they're in. Whenever they end up in fights, their mix of sheer skill and improvisational adaptability makes them able to bring down larger targets with relative ease. They're also adept at the art of the distraction, with Sabina (Kristen Stewart) being particularly gifted at drawing attention in order to allow for her allies to move into position around their target. The opening of the film even has her lulling Jonny Smith (Chris Pang) and his men into a false sense of security while her team moves into position around them. They have moments of subtlety, too, when they're in disguise, usually blending into large public spaces such as busy building lobbies or crowded coffee shops.
With the arrival of Elena (Naomi Scott), they also gain a genuine technical advantage. She's a gifted engineer and hacker and is able to quickly find a gap in the team to fill. While she isn't as physically imposing as either of her new teammates, she's later shown to have been taking Krav Maga lessons and can at least hold her own against a giant mook long enough to help save Sabina. They're quick on their feet too, quickly turning the massive number of guards surrounding them in Brock's (Sam Claflin) business building to cause chaos through confusion and trickery. They are really very talented at what they do -- as you'd expect -- but there's only one really effective spy seen in the entire film... and she's not even in the main cast.
99 SKILLS BUT STEALTH AIN'T ONE
Seriously, any time the mission relies on them being stealthy to accomplish their mission, it goes poorly enough that it usually ends in a pile of corpses. Multiple times, the group is called upon to be sneaky to gain access to a location, undetected. Their infiltration of a horse race track is predicated on finding the right target and tracking him quietly so they can strike swiftly and recover the Calisto device prototypes that are in his possession. However, Elena is used as a look-out in the press box to spot him and almost blows their cover immediately by being comically suspicious. She ends up sprinting through a crowd of people and out of the press box, which means she -- the newest ally of the stealthy Townsend Agency -- just ran through a space just full of cameras.
The reason the plan is ruined is that Jane (Ella Balinksa) -- normally the calmest and most collected of the Angels -- spots Mister Hodak, an assassin who previously killed her Bosley. Instead of drawing out their target like they were planning, she takes the shot at the assassin. This throws their entire plan out of whack and forces Sabina (who'd been undercover as a jockey) to steal a horse and chase after the target while they were fleeing. On top of doing this all in public, Sabina even makes a show of throwing something after the escaping criminals. It's not exactly the quietest way to get a tracker on your target.
The Angels don't exactly have the strictest rule against killing. While murder for something like revenge is "frowned upon" by the organization, it's established early on that the Angels consider "collateral damage" to not be the most worrisome part of the job, especially while dealing with henchmen. But the group leaves a literal pile of bodies in their wake. The villains they come up against are beaten, shot, stabbed, dropped out of second-story windows, given fatal seizures, impaled and at one point even reduced to a pile of goop by getting dragged into a rock crusher. The Angels don't make any effort to hide the bodies either, instead electing to just bail before the authorities arrive.
All of these problems come into play during the Angels' final mission to rescue Elena from Brock's massive party. Sabina and Jane first arrive in disguise as partyers, even taking part in a massive choreographed dance to try and blend in better with the rest of the women who are there to just have fun. But when they use a photo booth to withdraw their weapons, they literally leave evidence of their faces and weapons out in the open. While Sabina goes to find Elena, Jane fights Hodak in a duel across the party, openly in front of a crowd of people. She even knocks him onto an ice sculpture, impaling him through the chest and killing him in front of the main dance floor of a massive house party. Even if many women in attendance are secretly Angels as well, there had to have been at least a handful of civilians with cell phones who just could have tracked the faces of an entire spy organization and posted them online with the literal push of a button.
The Angels are super effective in the field, but also a secret organization that is terrible at keeping themselves secret and, while great for comedy, that's just a little bit weird in-universe. The only effective spy in the organization turns out to be Peter Flemming's assistant, who was an Angel keeping tabs on the project and was even the one to secretly give Elena the idea to go to the Angels in the first place. The rest of the team could really take a few lessons from her if there's a sequel.
Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, Charlie's Angels, stars Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Noah Centineo, Sarah Bennani and Robert Maaser.