Willis takes audience Hostage
March 21, 2005 —
Hostage is the latest Bruce Willis thriller/action movie, and like most of them, it delivers on some levels and fails on others. However, it mostly delivers in this case, and to call it a thriller/action movie would actually be slightly pigeonholing it, as it also contains fairly large elements of drama and suspense. While this movie is not likely to be life changing, it is far from a waste of time and provides a pretty solid piece of entertainment that isn't entirely mindless.
Willis plays Jeff Talley, a former hostage negotiator in Los Angeles. In an extremely effective opening sequence, we are shown why he no longer has the job of negotiator. He has since moved on to a job in a smaller town, where he is chief of police. We see that while he is happier here, Talley is still haunted by his past, and is a troubled person. He is also married with one teenage daughter, and we are shown that life at home is far from perfect.
After we are given this background information regarding the characters and setting, we are introduced to what becomes the main conflict of the movie. Three uncertain youths, probably ranging from 18 to 25, are driving around in a beat up old pickup truck. One is Dennis, the driver, another is Kevin, his younger brother, and lastly we have Mars, a disturbed looking young man whose pale face is framed by jet black hair. In a spur of the moment decision, they follow an expensive SUV to the house it belongs at with the intention of carjacking it, despite the protests of Kevin.
Here is where the story gets complicated. The three young men end up inside the house, taking the inhabitants (a father and his teenage daughter and young son) hostage after a silent alarm is tripped. The police arrive on the scene, greeted by gunshots from the loony Mars. However, it appears that the father has been involved in some shady dealings, and there are others who have interest in what is happening. Willis, no longer having the job of negotiator, turns the situation over to someone else. Unfortunately for him, due to circumstances beyond his control involving the other people interested in the situation, he is forced to reassume his role as negotiator.
Throughout all of this, the viewer is kept interested. The movie effectively makes us wonder what is to become of all of these people, and we even start to care for them. The acting is all well done, and because of this, none of the characters come off as stereotypical bad guys and good guys. None of them are perfect, and none of them are entirely evil.
Hostage takes a bit of a risk when it comes to style. Like the other elements of the movie, it works: most of the time. The opening credits are a camera showing us the area around the scene in a freeze frame. The rest of the movie is quite dark, and often, especially in the beginning, there is no musical accompaniment. This gives both a lifelike feel to the events, and prevents it from appearing lighthearted, ever. This is not a happy movie, and it is not a funny one.
All of this works well. Where the style fails is in some of the completely over the top slow motion shots. Slow motion is a tricky thing; it can be used to effectively accentuate the seriousness of a scene, and it can also make it more emotional. Hostage does have two moments when the slow motion works very well. However, it uses slow motion in quite a bit more than two places. In the climax of the story, we are bombarded with so much slow motion that at times it feels like something is wrong with the reel
Fortunately, the mistakes are short lived, and when the movie does work, it works quite well. Hostage is an action movie, a drama, a thriller, and a suspense movie, and at different times, it accomplishes all of this.