Monday, February 21, 2011


Clearly there is a marketing effort to tie this film in with Taken from two years ago. The tag line, "Take Back Your Life" is not really very subtle. That is as close as the movie comes to being about revenge fantasy and Liam Neeson kicking butt. This movie is apparently based on a book that was a suspense thriller. There are spy elements and double crosses and a plot that seems so clear after certain revelations that you will kick yourself if you missed them. I was trying to think of similar themes and "The Bourne Identity" came to mind, but Amanda had a better link and that was Total Recall. I hope that does not give too much away since the cleverness of the situation is a big part of the appeal of this movie.

The first movie I remember seeing Liam Neeson in was Excalibur in 1981. He was one of the knights of the round table, the one that saw something wrong in Lancelot's refusal to join them at council on a regular basis. Nearly ten years later he was Dr. Peyton Westlake, a researcher that becomes the deformed and vengeful "Darkman". Since then he has been in dozens of movies and been nominated for an Academy Award. He is a proficient and appealing actor, but until "Taken" a couple of years ago, he was not a star. hat movie established him at a relatively late point in his life as an action star. Here he plays a lost soul biomedical researcher, but one that seems able to take care of himself. The good thing is that he is believable in both aspects. You need to have that kind of credibility to carry off a movie like this. Schwarzenegger and Stallone could never get us to believe the intellectual element of the characters they played, although they are both smart guys, they clearly fall in the action category. The closest I can think of another actor to be able to play tough and vulnerable was Kurt Russell. He may not be the biochemist, but is could do the everyman forced to become something more, really well. Neeson has that same ability.

There are elements of old cold war spy films in this movie. It is set in Berlin, there are dark forces at work, and a former E. German security guy turns up as a key character. There are side notes related to international business, science and middle eastern politics, so it is not hard to see parallels to all kinds of spy films. There are car chases and hairbreadth escapes and some solid fight scenes. So if you like intrigue and suspense, this is a good film choice. The plot is not as convoluted as it might have been. In fact, once the key twist is revealed, it all makes a lot more sense and fits in well with the things that we have been shown.

Diane Kruger, who was so solid in Inglorious Basterds, is here as the usual civilian caught up in events, far beyond her depth. Yet her character is tough and resourceful and manages to be a key ingredient to the story, not simply a female interest for the star. Bruno Ganz looked familiar to me, I am sure he has been in some things I have seen, but he is best known for the German movie "Downfall" in which he plays Hitler. I don't know if many people have seen that movie but I do know that millions have seen him in the role because clips from that film have been used in Youtube parodies for years. If your favorite TV show got canceled or your team lost in the championship, there is probably a scene of Hitler going off in German with English subtitles despairing over the disappointment. That is Mr, Ganz. He is very subtle here but incredibly believable.

This is a solid film that will play well in theaters for a while and will earn some good video business. It is not as perfect as "Taken" was, in large part because the emotional involvement in that movie is never present here. This film is more coldly calculated to fool us and to lead us to the resolution. It is a lot more clever but not as strong in audience reaction. I'm sure I will see it many times on the satellite channels next year and enjoy it but I don't need to keep it in my head the same way that I did with "Taken".

Spoiler Alert:

I have a great way to describe the plot of this movie, but I don't want to spoil it for you. If you want the clue, follow this link.

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