I’ve been a fan of Alexander Siddig since my high school days of seeing him in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine reruns. Finding out a few years back that he was starring in his own action thriller couldn’t have made me happier. I finally caught the 2012 film the other day and maybe my expectations were too high.
Siddig plays Adib Abdel Kareem, a former member of the Syrian police who defected to Canada after serious, life threatening charges were thrown at him. It’s been twenty-five years and his past is back to haunt him when he learns his daughter has secretly gone to Damascus to learn of her father’s mysterious past (which she knows nothing about and thinks nothing ill of her intentions). A photographer in a country suspicious of such a profession, Adib’s daughter is captured by one of the many secret police factions in the city on the grounds of being a spy. With the help of his old fiancee (played by Marisa Tomei), a Canadian emissary located in Damascus (played by Joshua Jackson), and an old Syrian friend and colleague (played by Oded Fehr), Adib must wade through an ocean of Syrian politics and corruption to find his daughter while she’s still alive.
There have been comparisons between this and Liam Neeson’s Taken (2008) because in both films the main character’s daughter is kidnapped. Other than that basic idea, there is nothing in common between the two pictures. One major difference is that, except for a brief video that Adib watches in the beginning, we never see his daughter until the closing minutes of the film. This is in contrast to Taken where we get to know the daughter before she’s kidnapped. Also, there’s very little lead in to the problem of the story. Literally within the first two to three minutes, after we’ve witnessed the opening credits and Adib walking through his office building, we learn that his daughter has gone missing in Damascus.
Jumping right into the action isn’t automatically bad. Neither is the film’s focus on suspense and political intrigue over balls-to-the-walls action, another difference between this and the 2008 Neeson flick. I enjoyed these differences. While initially jarring to see what seems to be a more grounded, dialogue driven film, the dissimilar qualities to Taken were refreshing.
What sadly puts an anvil around the neck of this movie and drags it down into okayness is its habit of building up the energy and tension with a thrilling scene or plot development and then doing a 180 and following it with a calm, slow scene. I understand you need to give the audience a chance to breath between the thrills, action, and maybe even laughs of a film, but you don’t want to completely ruin the momentum when you do it. Inescapable is guilty of this sin far too often to get immersed in the plot and characters.
To help you understand what I mean, let’s take a look at another problem, Adib’s casualness in regards to his daughter’s abduction. He instantly wants as much information as possible when he learns of the horrible incident, but he follows that with leisurely going home, talking to his wife, saying they should order out, and getting mad at his other daughter who knew of her sister’s trip to Damascus. I understand he doesn’t want to worry his wife, who knows nothing about what happened to her daughter. But Adib should still have more urgency. We see he’s committed to getting his daughter back at any cost, but even when he gets to Damascus, he spends too many scenes mundanely talking to people as if nothing’s wrong. Maybe he doesn’t want to raise suspicion to the secret police or he’s thinking that it won’t do any good to get hysterical, he needs to remain calm and think clearly.
In any case, it doesn’t work. It just makes the film uneven and choppy. I saw one reviewer describe the film as underwhelming. I couldn’t agree more. It’s interesting and different than what I expected, but it’s script and direction weigh it down. I don’t think it’s awful. Some of my friends said they loved it. So maybe you’ll enjoy it more. I’ll probably avoid it in the future and pop in Taken instead.