What director Steven Soderbergh does best is take material that a technical director would translate faithfully, but without any real inspiration, and elevate the entire art form.
In somebody else’s hands HAYWIRE would be your standard action film, complete with explosions, cheesy one liners and predictable plot beats, but Soderbergh manages to turn all our expectations about what we anticipate out of an action film on their head. Fight scenes are strangely* bloodless, the music doesn’t shamelessly try to influence our emotional engagement, the characters are mortal men and women, not perfectly sculpted bodybuilders, and the story resists a contemporary cause and effect linear progression.
It’s a trick that’s easy to duplicate but difficult to master.
Realism is a misnomer when it comes to filmmaking. After all, when you’re dealing with a fabricated filmic universe, with its own arbitrary set of rules and expectations, one person’s realism is another’s make believe dream palace.
But HAYWIRE comes awfully close to what I’d consider a realistic action film. It doesn’t quite get there, even Soderbergh isn’t immune to the ever present demands of movie making, so at times the film comes across as presenting a somewhat understated take on authentic action sequences.
Soderbergh is a master at playing around with the basic building blocks of a film making, subverting decades of audience conditioning and creating a unique style of filmmaking that is all his own. He eschews all the predictable, safe choices and gives us a glimpse into a whole other approach to filmmaking.
*strange only in the sense that we as an audience have become overly used to watching movie stars take incredible amounts of punishment and then brush it off as if nothing has happened.