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Howard Tayler - A Quick Critical Analysis of "Taken"
Ramblings of a Happy Cartoonist
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A Quick Critical Analysis of "Taken"
Rented Taken this evening. I kept hearing good things about it.

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.
Comments
mavikfelna From: mavikfelna Date: July 26th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I found the movie to be almost completely predictable but it was still so much fun to watch that I wasn't bothered by that fact at all. I have to admit, when we saw it in the theater we were 10 minutes late so we got there just as the action was starting. I think it made it all the better.

We have since seen it on DVD and picked up the missing pieces.

--Mav
lizzibabe From: lizzibabe Date: July 26th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
for the most part, the movie didn't impress me much, except for that scene you talked about. When he pulled that trigger I sat straight up and shrieked "WTF?! YOU DON'T DO THAT!"
hexapuma From: hexapuma Date: July 26th, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
This film, to my mind, is another good example of the antihero construction in storytelling. It's right up there with The Punisher and John Ringo's Paladin of Shadows series.

Thankfully Joss Whedon wasn't involved or everyone would've died.
thecrimsony From: thecrimsony Date: July 26th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just finally watched it last week too and totally agree. The tension was great even if the plot was a little two dimensional. Then again how many times do we have to hear he's going to do anyting he can to get his daughter back before we stop being surprised? In retrospect, shooting the wife was so AMAZINGLY over the line, but so very appropriate. The crooked ex-spy was basically DARING him "Shoot me! I can take it!"
gurgi From: gurgi Date: July 27th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I half expected the wife-shooting at that point. He'd made it pretty damn clear he didn't HAVE a line at that point (the torture scene was actually pretty funny - his lines were, at least). I actually cheered him at that point.

But I've really always loved the anti-hero...
thefile From: thefile Date: August 1st, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
We at Aegis have seen it. S says it's the best presentation of real-world violence he's seen in the movies. We love all the fight choreography in this film.
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