A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 585 – Taken

Taken – October 6th, 2011

I’ll come right out and say it: I hated this movie. I hated every second of it. I came out of the movie feeling like I’d just been told the world hates me and wants to assault me and rape me and it’s my own damn fault if anything happens to me because I didn’t have a man watching me. That is the lesson this movie imparts. And it is vile. It is so vile that this movie has taken top honors in our collection as Movie I Hate The Most. I really thought Death Proof was going to walk away with that one since it’s held the top position for so long now, but no. This movie just waltzed in and swept it away. Congratulations, Taken, for being more hateful than Tarantino’s loving portrayal of women being brutalized. At least at the end Tarantino gave a different group of women the agency to exact revenge on their own.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was 17 I got a chance to spend three weeks in England as part of a school exchange. The other students who’d gotten into the exchange were friends with each other and carpooled with the faculty chaperon but I was more than a bit of an outsider in the group. I didn’t really socialize with any of the other girls and I’d barely ever spoken to the chaperon and I later learned that she tried to get me kicked out of the group because I wouldn’t mesh well with the others (there were no other reasons and since there were no other reasons she didn’t have much of an argument for it, so I went anyhow). So once we got to England I ended up spending a lot of time wandering London on my own. Granted, that wasn’t the safest thing to be doing, but I wasn’t precisely unfamiliar with cities and I wasn’t precisely naive about dealing with strangers. And you know what? Despite being on my own and young and fairly attractive according to general social norms, I was never once kidnapped, addicted to drugs and sold as a sex slave to the highest bidder. This, despite not having my father with me to fend off any would-be assailants. I’m not saying it’s an impossibility. I’m just saying it’s not the foregone conclusion this movie suggests.

Because in this movie? It is a foregone conclusion. Every single woman in this movie is either a victim of assault or an innocent protected/shielded by strong men. The victims are victims because they didn’t have strong men to protect them and are being used by evil men. That’s how the world works in this movie. And the only person who seems to get that (aside from the scores of evil men who do the kidnapping and raping) is former spy Bryan Mills, whose teenage daughter wants to go to Europe with a friend. His ex-wife, now a pampered housewife who is clearly supposed to have no real world experience whatsoever, convinces him to sign some paperwork that’s required for the still underage daughter to leave the country. And leave she does, with a friend who’s been overseas before. But as they’re both silly girls and have no man to take care of them, they are soon abducted. All Bryan has to go on is his daughter’s last known location and a frantic phone call she made when she saw the kidnappers enter the apartment she and her friend were staying in. The rest of the movie is scene after scene of Bryan being a bad ass former spy hell bent on getting his daughter back and scene after scene of the horrible things that happened to other young women who were presumably not under the protection of a man.

For all that Maggie Grace gets second billing after Liam Neeson for her role as daughter Kim, she gets barely any screen time post-kidnapping. Because really, she’s not a character in the movie. She’s an object. An object of great importance to Neeson’s Bryan, but an object nonetheless. Had this movie been about Neeson going after someone for some other reason and being a bad-ass? Had it been about, say, Helen Mirren in the same position? I would have found it a lot more enjoyable. For one, it really is cool to see Neeson be a bad ass. He does steely determination so very well and I don’t at all mind watching a man in his 50s kick some criminal butt. But stop for a moment and imagine someone like Mirren in the same role. Imagine it’s Kim’s mother coming after her, breaking people’s arms and smashing in their faces. I’d go see that in the theater! But this isn’t that movie. This is a movie that seems to be saying that men do things and women have things done to them. And that makes me sick.

What really hammered it home to me that this movie’s attitude towards women wasn’t just an unpleasant but hard-to-avoid consequence of the story’s particulars was a scene involving a former associate of Bryan and the former associate’s wife. Said associate was once a spy as well, but now he’s working a desk job. He’s gone soft and allowed himself to be bribed and has turned a blind eye to some nasty dealings. And when Bryan makes it clear he knows this associate knows something important, who does he threaten? The associate’s innocent and naive wife. In fact, he doesn’t just threaten her. He shoots her. Really, he’s not that far away from the evil men who took his daughter. So long as the woman isn’t related to him or useful to him, she’s fair game. How does that make him different from the men he’s been hunting this whole time? The answer is, it doesn’t.

I cannot fault the acting or the set dressing or the fight choreography. All were excellently done. The action scenes are great and indeed, if all I’d ever seen of the movie was Liam Neeson taking people down? I would have said it was a perfectly decent action movie. The hateful attitude towards women aside, the tension in the plot is built up well too. From the phonecall where Bryan tells his daughter what to do as she’s being grabbed to his piecing together of clues to where she’s been taken, it’s a tense thriller and that’s done well. But that nasty tone is present throughout and I just can’t overlook it. Not only that, but I don’t want to overlook it. I don’t want to accept that it’s a reasonable thing for a movie to do. I hated this movie. I hated it deeply. And unlike Death Proof I don’t think it hates me back. I think it doesn’t see me as worth hating because I’m not worth much of anything to it. And that is just as bad.

October 6, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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