A Quick Critical Analysis of "Taken"
If you haven't seen the film by now it's probably because the "super-spy father saves abducted daughter" genre isn't your thing. I can understand that. What's neat is that this film does a great job of putting the hero in crisis situations.
Sure, you expect the hero to fight more effectively than the bad guys. You expect him to track more effectively than they hide. He's a super-spy, after all. You know he's going to live, right? But the three real crises the film provides work around that.
Spoilers follow. But it's been on DVD for a while now, so I'm declaring us to be beyond the statute of limitations. No LJ-cut for you!
Crisis #1: He's too late. That's our biggest fear, right? Well... he can't be too late to save his daughter or the film becomes pointless. So he's too late to save the friend. I saw this coming, but it was still well-done.
Crisis #2: He has to do something unthinkable in order to progress. I thought this was going to be the torture scene, but I was wrong. The unthinkable thing he does is shoot an innocent woman at the dinner table in order to get her corrupt government official husband to talk. He doesn't kill her, but he threatens to. This I did not see coming, and it added a measure of depth to the character that was equally unexpected. The hero really is a horrible person... but we still want to see him win.
Crisis #3: He gets captured. This is obvious, we all expect it and see it coming, and I even predicted exactly when it would happen (within two minutes of him finally finding his daughter) but it was still effective.
Lessons here? Well... if you want to crank up the tension, find good crises for your heroes. If you can be unpredictable, great. If not, try to take the expected crises and deliver them in unexpected ways. This film pretty much delivered exactly what it said it would, and had very little to offer in terms of plot complexity, but still worked because of how nicely the crises were executed.