In director John Singleton’s new action-thriller Abduction, the question so many ponder when they’re growing up, “How can I be related to these people,” and then continues to raise the stakes, one rung at a time, until that question turns into a “What If.” What If you found out that your parents were not your real parents? What if a mystery potentially surrounded that question? What if everything you’ve known your entire life, one day turns out to be nothing but an elaborate cover-up, a sham?
This is exactly what happens to Nathan Harper/Price, played by Taylor Lautner (from Twilight fame). The film opens up detailing a thrill seeking, living-on-the-edge, up for anything, high school senior. We see Nathan, lying atop his friend’s car, as it drives down the road at high speed. We don’t see apprehension in him. Instead we see what adrenalin looks like visually. The teens proceed to a party, one that Nathan will awake from the next morning, shirtless and asleep in the host’s front yard.
His “parents each have their own, quite different methods for dealing with his irresponsibility. His “father” submits the hung-over student to an all-out training session, consisting of a mixture between boxing, wrestling and MMA, that has more of a fight-for-your-life air to it than any type of sparring session I’ve ever seen. His mother, on the other hand, institutes a punishment that should resonate with most adolescents Nathan’s age, a week of grounding. She follows her sentencing up by telling him “Trust isn’t give, it’s earned.”
As we find out later on, Nathan would need to rely on the “mental lessons” taught by his mother as well as the “physical training” provided by his father. In fact Nathan would have to learn much more, not just to succeed, but also in order to survive. We find out that Nathan is also an accomplished Wrestler, again illustrating his physical ability. We see he’s struggled with emotions, namely intense nightmares and deep-seated rage. He’s been seeing psychiatrist Gerrie, played by Sigourney Weaver, who teaches him the mental aspects of restraint and focus. Each of these skills would be essential if Nathan would avoid Russian bad guy Nikola. In addition, Singleton’s stakes building continues, as he’s not simply pitted against the Russian, he’s also avoiding being captured by Frank Burton, a corrupt CIA agent, played by Alfred Molina (from Law & Order fame).
But Singleton’s not quite done. He ante’s the pot with three more twists, yet again deepening the stakes. He includes the fact that his biological father, Martin Price, who’s never actually seen wholly, adding to the mysterious nature of his character, is a top-level black ops agent, one of the best, instilling fear even amongst those on his own team. Nathan’s survival mission has the final twist, he not only must survive each of his pursuers deadly game of chase, he must do so knowing that if he doesn’t do what the Russian wants all of his friends will be killed until he obeys. The final nuance is that the girl of his dreams, played by Lily Collins (from Priest and The Blindside), gets caught up in the game as well, as she not only witnesses the murders of his “parents,” but is also mentioned by Burton, thus making the implied statement that she’s not safe, no matter what Nathan does or doesn’t do.
The fact that she’s the girl he’s always loved, yet never able to muster the courage to let her know how she feels, is interesting to watch the pair work together. Hours before all hell broke loose at Nathan’s house the two could barely sustain extended looks at one another, where as know the pair would have to work together with much more than a homework assignment on the line.
Overall the film was a point-to-point, swiftly paced thriller, and with just enough non-action oriented scenes to deepen the plot and to uncover the details needed to push it forward. The inciting incident takes place very early in the film, leaving the majority of the movie in full-on action mode, making for a pretty good theatrical ride.
I was impressed with Lautner’s first real stab at being an action hero. I thought he did much better than I assumed he’d be and was also impressed by Alfred Molina who had a real nice conceal on his corrupt side, only leaked through dialogue. He carried himself as a “friend” to Nathan, yet gave off just enough “edge” to indicate that more was certainly yet to be determined with his character.
That said I thought, while understanding Lautner is still honing his craft, that a better job could have been done with his character. On a similar note, but more script oriented in nature, is that it was a rather swift transition from irresponsible teenager to that of a focused target who’s able to outwit professional killers and trained CIA operatives in the process. I guess it makes sense, in the “put up or shut up” frame of thinking, that if he would have spent more time in the mental swarm of emotional turmoil, that would no doubt be wrecking havoc upon his character, he never would have made it through the tale, getting caught or killed very early in the film. That said though, I thought a little more of that emotional swelling could have been detailed, outside of a few morning tears in the woods and a passionate, albeit brief, trip down memory lane with Karen in the train compartment.
In all you can’t really go wrong with Abduction, that is, if you’re looking for an action oriented high stakes thriller with a fair storyline and a whole bunch of chase scenes. Sure the acting could be better, the ending a bit more climactic and there are a few plot holes that could be filled in, but I really don’t feel that any of this flaws will ruin your experience or hinder your suspension of disbelief. Additionally, Abduction also stars Maria Bello (from various entities, including TV’s Prime Suspect) and Michael Nyqvist (from the Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy).