Taken Twice then Gone

I recently saw a bit of Gone, which was interesting enough to make me want to watch the whole thing. But for some reason I thought it was part of the Taken films, the ones with Liam Neeson threatening to hunt people down and kill them. So I ended up watching all three of them, only to find out that they weren't related at all. Taken and Taken Two are both what I would classify as action films, with loads of punching and shooting, while Gone is more of a psychological thriller, with little to no gore or overt violence.

Taken stars Liam Neeson as an obsessed father who works as some sort of CIA master of mayhem and sneakiness. He goes into low key panic mode when his daughter asks for permission to go to Paris, then discovers after she gets there that she lied about her plans. Instead of going to museums and other sedate places she's going to follow a band around, which makes dad feel even less secure. Naturally this amps up his anxiety, which increases his need to be constantly aware of her location and actions. Whether from nature or from the circumstances of his job, he seems to be constantly expecting the worse.

As no doubt foretold by the title, his daughter is indeed taken by a bunch of scumbags, which leads to dad flying to Paris to lay waste to anyone or anything standing in the way of rescuing his daughter.

I was surprised by how much I like this film, which I expected to be awful. I liked the sequel even more, which involves CIA dad, his ex, and their daughter going on vacation to Istanbul. The father of one of the kidnappers from the previous film sends a goon squad after the entire family, in an effort to get revenge for the death of his son.

The best thing about this installment is a switch in rescuer and rescue. This time around dad and mom are spirited away, while the daughter is alerted to the danger by dad. She manages to hide from the intruders after she gets a warning call from dad. Then she gets some guns and grenades and goes to town. I really liked that the character that was extraordinarily passive in the first movie was now dynamic and heroic. (Heroic if you ignore the fact that she's blowing up half of Istanbul.)

Once I figured out that Gone wasn't part of the Taken franchise I thought it would probably be a terrible knockoff, but I was dead wrong. This might sound a little silly, especially given how many viewers have deemed the film unwatchable, but I thought it has almost a Hitchcockian feel. It's a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator.

Amanda Seyfried plays a young traumatized woman called Jill who has PTSD from being kidnapped and nearly killed. She panics when she comes home from work and can't find her sister. She calls everyone who might know where she is, but from the moment she sees her sister's empty bed she is convinced that the kidnapper has come back to finish the job, adding the sister to the menu. But since the sister is an alcoholic and her purse is missing Jill immediately runs into skepticism when she tries to get help.

The evidence that Jill lays out to her sister's boyfriend is slim at best and when she goes to the police and presents the same evidence they make it clear that they think she is delusional. According to them she was never kidnapped or held hostage by a killer. There are not a series of dead women whose bodies have not recovered. To them every time someone goes missing Jill comes raging into the station demanding they do something about a killer that doesn't exist. My impression, or maybe they flat out said it, I can't quite remember, is that she was committed to a mental institution after the police looked for her kidnapper and found nothing. But one of the cops behaves in a very suspicious manner, which implies that maybe she is sane and is a victim of the “all women are hysterical” trope that has been around for centuries.

But then again as Jill starts to look for her sister on her own we see her tell a different story to every person she asks for help. She also behaves in a dangerous and reckless manner, although certainly no more reckless or dangerous than any other protagonist in an action film. (Does anyone leave a bigger mess than James Bond?) Is she a liar and a maniac? Does she need to be locked up again? Or is she a desperate person who is doing a difficult and frightening job with no assistance from those whose job it is to help?

It's this suspense that made this film intriguing for me. Also it has Jennifer Carpenter in it, who played Deb on Dexter, and I'll watch just about anything she's in.

I'm not sure I would pay to see any of these films, but they were nice to watch while I was trying to recuperate from a cold.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is an intimate personal comic from Noelle Stevenson, author of the amazing continuing strip Nimona. It's about an existential crisis, or at least that's how I read it. It's moving, intensely personal and something that is very easy to relate to. http://gingerhaze.tumblr.com/post/63521941567/i-took-the-day-off-to-draw...