Loyalty in Taken and In a Better World

While family seems to be the focus of this week’s films, I’ve found loyalty to be the underlying motivation for many characters’ actions. Merriam-Webster lists synonyms for loyalty, such as dedication, faithfulness, and allegiance. Throughout the class, I’ve found that loyalty and revenge go hand in hand. But does that make one’s actions justifiable?

Bryan Mills, the father and ex-CIA operative in Taken, fights to get his daughter back from a nasty albanian prostitution ring that kidnapped her in Europe. Over the course of the film, Bryan kills 26 people, including the brutal torture of the man who first took his daughter Kim. When face to face with one of the men directly involved in Kim’s final sale (a deal of $500,000), Bryan  points a gun in his face; the man says, “Please understand, it was all business.” Bryan replies, “It was all personal to me.” He proceeds to unload the contents of his gun into the man pleading for mercy. So, not a single audience member can deny Bryan Mills’ loyalty to his daughter. His life was in danger at many points, and he was willing to do anything for her–true allegiance. Furthermore, no one can deny that what the Albanians did to his daughter was horrific. Does the fact that he was displaying loyalty justify his actions? Or was their a certain amount of revenge being taken that tips the scales of justice a little too far in Bryan’s direction?

Anton, from In a Better World, is a doctor who does medical missions in Africa. He loves and supports his sons, although he has trouble in his marriage. While away in Africa, he treats woman after pregnant woman that have been cut open to reveal their now-dead babies. One day the leader of the men who have been performing these atrocities drives into the camp, insisting that Anton fix his deeply infected leg. Anton reluctantly agrees to treat the man, on the condition that he keeps his armed minions far away from the refugee camp. The boss complies, but becomes increasingly patient. After Anton’s surgery on a young girl fails, he is devastated–which is when the boss storms in, making horrific comments about the newly dead girl. He knocks the man over and lets the people of the refugee camp, who hate this man more than anything, seek revenge for the deaths and desecrations of their daughters. Anton jeopardized his loyalty to all those he treated in the camp by helping this evil man. He, however, regained it when he let them kill the man who had done so many horrible things. Those who killed him also sought revenge for their daughters. Was Anton right in treating him in the first place? Was he right to give him up to the refugees?

Loyalty and revenge are closely tied, but can loyalty be considered justification for horrible deeds? Can vengeance be the sole motive for any revenge seeker?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Loyalty in Taken and In a Better World

  1. rpasser

    I’m not so sure if loyalty should be considered a justification for revenge as much as a motivation for revenge. In Taken, Bryan’s loyalty to his daughter was the motivation behind his life-risking rescue mission, but I feel that the revenge he took on her captors was a separate factor altogether. Bryan didn’t torture Kim’s kidnapper out of loyalty to his daughter, but instead to punish the man for wronging him personally. To Bryan, loyalty is what drove him to save his daughter, and revenge is what drove him to kill her captors. The two are not as intertwined as one might think.
    Also, I can see how the decision of Anton from In a Better World to medically treat the warlord could be seen as jeopardizing his loyalty to the locals. However, it should be noted that as a doctor, the refusal to care for the man would be jeopardizing Anton’s loyalty to his profession. Doctors are supposed to help people, not hurt them. When Anton allows the locals to lynch the warlord, he goes against his loyalty in order to enact his own revenge. This again demonstrates how loyalty and revenge are separate from each other.

  2. ald3561

    When looking at movies like Taken in terms of justification, I think it is best to think of the many people that Bryan kills as part of a whole. Bryan does not think about each different person individually and whether or not they deserve his brutality because they are all part of the larger picture of the group that took his daughter. So does that make it okay for Bryan to torture a man? Maybe not, but as discussed in this post, he is loyal to his daughter and will do anything in order to get her back. I think that this idea relates also to Inglorious Basterds in that the basterds did not care about the background of each individual Nazi, they just thought of them solely as a member of a large group that killed Jews. So to them, it did not matter if they too had a family, they deserved to be killed for being a Nazi. In this respect Bryan views the 26 people he killed as Nazis, as a piece to a larger whole that has a morally corrupt system.

  3. I agree that Anton’s loyalty is to his profession as shown in his decision to treat the warlord originally and when he defended his decision to his friend the doctor (“I just have to”) and to the man who lives in the camp and says that the warlord killed his children. I also think his decision to throw the warlord out of the camp is not so much revenge, as much as a removal of his protection so that the people in the camp can enact their revenge.

  4. While loyalty often times leads to vengeance, I do not believe it is a justification. I think the best example of this would be in the case of gangs. All gang members have loyalty to each is other, which is usually why it ends up in a huge blow out between, what once was a dispute between two people, that’s now a huge mob . Members of this mob don’t even know what they are truly fighting for, therefore invalidating any sort of justification they might have thought they had. Loyalty is not a justification, but just another excuse.

  5. Revenge taking is a very complex thing. Is revenge ever justified? If so, when? I think a lot of times it is very difficult to draw the line at a just point when taking revenge. In every context its hard to know how far is too far, and how far isn’t far enough. If determining whether revenge is a form of justice isn’t difficult enough, try determining what personal justification each character has for their vengeance. Motives for revenge are a hard thing to characterize because most of the time it is not that clear cut. I think your thesis is on to something by saying that loyalty is a motivating factor, but I don’t think its the only motivating factor.

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