Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) former Special Forces soldier and military contractor suffering from PTSD tries to reconnect with his long time love, but first must go on the run from London to Barcelona and across Europe in order to clear his name.
Review by Louise Keller:
Divergent moral codes sit side by side in this intense thriller about corporate greed and unconscionable acts, but the plot has so many facets, it confuses. Adapted from a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Taken director Pierre Morel's film has a frenetic feel, as we try to keep up with the salient plot point: Sean Penn's former Special Forces contractor Jim Terrier trying to escape the long lasting reverberations of a covert operation years ago.
Action packed, with tense and thrilling sequences, although things come together in the end, I was frustrated by the constantly shifting nature of the story. I would like to have had a greater insight into the relationships to put it all into context. But Penn, always forceful and convincing, delivers in spades, while Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone bring gravitas, albeit we don't see enough of them.
When the film begins, it is 2006 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a humanitarian crisis is at a peak. We observe Terrier's duality, as he is told he is 'the designated trigger' for an assassination. It is all about multi-national companies and wealth at any cost. We also observe Terrier's relationship with humanitarian worker Annie (Jasmine Trinca, lovely): loving, passionate, playful. It does not escape us that his associate Felix (Javier Bardem) has an eye on Annie, too. Where there are two men and one woman, more trouble is sure to follow.
Picking up the narrative 8 years later, as Terrier is trying to redeem himself, the action flits from Congo to London and then Barcelona, where he seeks out Felix, to find out who is now trying to kill him - and why? The scenes with Bardem are the highlights - he has the ability to make every moment edgy as he creates yet again another unique character.
Especially powerful is the restaurant scene when Terrier and Annie see each other for the first time; Felix has not told Annie, he is coming. Her face is a canvas on which her feelings are painted.
The violence is brutal and there is plenty of it. As the body count rises, so too does the intensity of Terrier's headaches and dizziness, the resulting condition of his years of body abuse. A lunch invitation at a Spanish country villa becomes the scene of a blood bath before the next stop of Gibraltar. As Terrier's friend, Winstone is a powerful presence. The climactic deadly finale in an unnamed city (probably Seville) is dramatically set at a bullfighting ring, complete with a stadium of spectators and an angry bull. These scenes are unforgettable. Interesting that the credits offer a disclaimer regarding the endorsement of bullfights.
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GUNMAN, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Idris Elba, Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone
PRODUCER: Sean Penn, Andrew Rona, Joel Silver
DIRECTOR: Pierre Morel
SCRIPT: Pete Travis, Don MacPherson (novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Flavio Martionez Labiano
EDITOR: Frederic Thoroval
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew Laws
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: StudioCanal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 16, 2015