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Film Review – ABDUCTION

Venue: Cine 5, Ster-Kinekor
Film: Abduction
Director: John Singleton
Players: Taylor Lautner; Lily Collins; Alfred Molina; Sigourney Weaver; Dermot Mulroney
Genre: thriller; action
Rating ***½

Our teenage hero Nathan (Lautner) states emphatically in voiceover at the beginning of the film: “Sometimes I do feel a freak: like a stranger in my own life.” Consequently, Nathan is a mixed-up teenager! At the beginning of the film he swaggers to a teenage party with two mates and follows the trend of bad behaviour: eyeing the girls but hell bent on the alcohol so that he wakes up on the lawn the next morning, semi-clothed and surrounded by beer cans. Then we see him fighting with his father over his behaviour: vicious, ugly fighting where familial affection is notably absent. Nathan’s mother watches mutely through a glass window.
Next we see Nathan at the psychologist’s office (Weaver), where he discusses his insomnia, anger management and his dreams. In short, Nathan appears to be a typical American teenager, suffering from the angst of affluence. Lautner plays the part well, although his well-developed physique (honed for the ‘Twilight’ movies, no doubt) suggests that he does more than boxing at school.
The action really starts when Taylor is teamed up with his neighbour across the street, Karen Murphy (Collins), to do a Sociology project on Human Trafficking. They meet at his house, sharing laptop information with each other. When Karen finds a Missing Children website, Nathan’s interest is piqued. The website displays pictures of missing children from years ago and morphs their facial features to provide an idea of what they might look like today. Inexplicably, a picture similar to Nathan as a five-year-old materialises, and the resemblance is initially a joke they share between them – until Nathan goes to his drawers to dig out the very same t-shirt with the stain on the shoulder that can be seen in the photograph.
From then on, of course, the film gathers pace as Nathan and Karen go on the run, pursued by Serbian ‘black op’ independents, the CIA, and eventually by independent operatives who seem to be on the side of righteousness. As with all these situations, however, Nathan is advised to trust no-one; after a couple of naïve mistakes, he takes this advice seriously. There have been many such films, KNIGHT AND DAY being a recent one. This one was enjoyable because the teenagers were given breathing space in-between attempts to capture them, during which time they came to know each other better. A tendency in action films is to accelerate the pace unbearably, and to pile on incident after incident in rapid succession, each one less plausible than the previous one. I felt that director Singleton exercised restraint in ABDUCTION: the film certainly never flags but does not exceed the bounds of probability either. Each new action sequence develops organically from an existing scene and, although there are some exciting fight scenes, they are never gratuitously violent or unnecessarily long.
There are some interesting characters in the film. Nathan’s parents seem superficially to be disciplined and well-meaning mentors through the difficulties of adolescence; initially, it is Nathan himself who seems awkward, wayward, and lacking in affection. Martin Price is a distant voice on a telephone, viewed momentarily at the conclusion of the film. Frank Burton (Molina) is the CIA operative in charge of the unit which is chasing Nathan with the objective of saving him from darker forces: he exudes fatherly kindness and directs his operatives with logic and controlled calmness. Psychiatrist Gerry Bennett is initially convincing as a well-meaning psychiatrist, friendly with Nathan’s parents, and with his interests sincerely at heart. When these characters become someone else, adopt another persona, the viewer shares Nathan’s momentary discomfort because reality becomes suddenly insecure and unreliable.
Most spy action movies leap towards such incredible situations that belief must be suspended in favour of entertainment. In this film, however, all the political twists and turns, the shocking revelations about Nathan’s life, and the danger which dogs him as he flees from one part of America to another in search of truth, seem reasonable, even the conclusion, at which point Nathan must be assured of safety and security.
It is difficult to identify the target market of this film: since the protagonists are two teenagers in search of meaningful relationships and a Sociology project, the first half-an-hour of the film suggests that this is an analysis of adolescent angst, accompanied by crashing guitars in the background. A reasonable script and an astute director, however, sustain interest in the action and the characters, while the plot spirals into the world of spies and dark undercover agents. Smart, stylish cinematography and glossy settings complete the recipe for an enjoyable night out.

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