In this blog post, I will discuss the difficulties of the revenge genre and how the director of “Taken” attempts to avoid the classic revenge genre crisis. All together, this genre of film is too predictable. The audience can easily predict the path of the film and is left with little to imagine or think about. Yes, the film portrays passion, emotion, and triumph, but so does every other film in this genre. It is the same story with different characters and a different setting. In this film however, the director is conscious of the audience’s suspicions and attempts to work around them. 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 ex-CIA, after all. You know he’s going to live, right? But the three real crises the film provides work around that. While the action in this film is overwhelming, the director attempts to avoid the simple bloodbath genre by exciting the plot with character development and unforeseen drama.
As the characters develop in the opening scenes of the film, it is obvious that Bryan, the main character is struggling to connect with his daughter and prove to his ex-wife that he can be there for the family. Lenoir’s new husband, Stuart, exemplifies all that Bryan is not. He is rich, careless, and easily convinced. The film expands these contrasting relationships as Bryan continually cautions his ex-wife about the dangers of allowing their daughter to travel to Paris unsupervised. Lenoir complains that Bryan is overcautious and tells him that he is at risk of losing his daughter if he doesn’t let her live. This character development is crucial to avoiding the classic, predictable and thoughtless revenge drama. Bryan’s character heightens his loyalty to his mission and encourages the audience’s attachment to his success. Along with the character development, the director uses unforeseen drama to add to the three crises of the film. We will look at these crises and assess how predictable or unpredictable they really were.
Crisis #1: He’s too late. That’s our biggest fear, right? In some way he can’t be too late to save his daughter or the film becomes pointless and the audience is aware of this. So the unforeseen drama that complicates the crisis is that he’s too late to save the friend. While this is to some extent predictable, the execution of the scene plays to the drama of the film.
Crisis #2: He has to do something unthinkable in order to progress. 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 is not easily foreseen and it added a measure of depth to the character that was equally unexpected. The hero is a complex character who we still want to see succeed. In some way this develops his character as an anti-hero, although the French crooked ex-spy encourages this to some extent.
Crisis #3: He gets captured. This is obvious, we all expect it and see it coming, and could predict when it would happen. We can also assume that he will escape somehow considering the film likely will not end before he saves his daughter. This scene is fundamental to the revenge seeking drama. It complicates the plot and is a necessary cliché of this type of film. Even though this scene is predictable, it is executed well.
Whether or not the plot was unpredictable, the director did well to take the expected crises and deliver them in unexpected ways. The collaboration of character development and unforeseen drama assisted the film and helped differentiate the film from others in this drama.