ABDUCTION. Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, and Signourey Weaver. Directed by John Singleton. Rated M (Violence and infrequent coarse language). 106 min.
This action-adventure thriller takes the usual route of an unsuspecting hero being relentlessly pursued by sinister enemies, who have an evil agenda of their own. The theme is given an unusual twist in the movie by the fact that the hero has no idea about what that agenda is, but more importantly, does not know who he actually is. He thought he had an identity as a person, which proves not to be the case.
Nathan Price (Taylor Lautner), of "Twilight" werewolf fame, has always known something has not been right about his life. His parents have never seemed real people to him, and he has never felt close to them, until he realises what he has missed after they are killed. Shortly before their death, he sees a picture of himself as a child on a missing person's web site, and suddenly realises his life has been arranged to cloak his actual identity, and to hide an altogether different reality. As he begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together, he comes to suspect that he was given fake parents as a child for some reason, and he is now set upon by a group of killers who, because of that reason, want him dead. To survive, he joins forces with his neighbour, Karen (Lily Collins), one of the few people he knows he can trust, and who provides the film's romantic interest. They both race against time to discover Nathan's true past, but also to stay alive.
The world of covert espionage, as depicted in the film, is well structured by the film's director, John Singleton, and the movie has a modern musical sound-track, with pool parties to match, that guarantees high teenage appeal. Action piece follows action piece, but the movie holds tension as Price is pursued, and as CIA agents follow mysteriously behind, presumably to help him survive. High-energy action sequences abound, and Singleton effectively uses a sporting stadium in one particularly exciting chase sequence. Stadiums have provided very good scenarios in many thriller films for people on the run from would-be killers, and this film is no exception. Another set piece that is well staged is the explosion of Nathan's house, and his dramatic escape into the house's swimming pool. Overall, though, there is an obviousness to the flow of action sequences that unfold. Paranoia is supposed to be aroused incessantly by the movie, but the feeling of actual persecution only runs thinly through it.
It is debatable whether Taylor Lautner fills the screen best in his own right as an adult action hero, or as someone, who is a young Matt Damon in the making with a strong teenage following. Practically the whole film features Nathan's smouldering looks and furrowed brow. The pace of the film is particularly rapid, and there is a predictably dramatic encounter with Signourey Weaver, as a medical psychiatrist, trying to find her way into Nathan's unsettled mind, but who herself has a mysterious past that is related to his own. Alfred Molina provides good acting support as an undercover CIA agent, who is not all that he seems.
With the "Bourne" series particularly in mind, there are many espionage action-adventure films like this one around that are much better. In the thriller genre, the movie passes muster, though it would not be at the top of any high-quality listing. It is photographed well, provides good action sequences, and is entertaining, but it's ultimate adult appeal is relatively routine, partly because so much of the film seems to be constructed to appeal to teenagers, captive perhaps to the hero's "Twilight" past.
Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out September 22, 2011.