“They Stole His Life. He’s Taking It Back.”
Director: John Singleton
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina
Synopsis: A thriller centered on a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website.
Young Nathan Price (Taylor Lautner) is a typical American teen. He likes to drink beer and party, and has a crush on Karen (Lily Collins), the girl next door — or, at least, across the road, but doesn’t have the nerve to ask her out. He and Karen live in a typical prosperous American neighbourhood: wide roads, long, immaculately-mown lawns, neat and tidy houses. Some things are a little askew, though. Nathan’s parents (Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs) are loving enough, but his father is a stern man who pretty much redefines the term ‘tough love’ with bruisingly physical head-to-heads with his son. These encounters have a purpose, however, which quickly becomes apparent when Nathan discovers a photograph of his three-year-old self on a website for missing children which he’s carrying out research for a school project with Karen.
The site has a sinister purpose — it has been uploaded with the sole intention of locating Nathan, and seemingly within minutes of his accessing the site there’s a couple of men in suits knocking on the door. Within a minute of that first knock, both of Nathan’s parents are dead and one of the men is informing a shell-shocked Nathan and Karen that ‘there’s a bomb in the oven,’ which has to be one of the most unintentionally funny lines I’ve heard in movie in a long time. He’s not lying, though, there really is a bomb in the oven, and before you know it, the kids are diving into the swimming pool to escape the explosion.
The rest of the movie is pretty much a paranoid chase story, with Nathan and Karen unsure about just who they can trust and who they can’t. There’s a CIA agent named Burton (Alfred Molina) who informs Nathan that his parents weren’t actually his parents at all, but secret agents tasked with keeping him safe while his real father, a super-agent named Martin Price, is busy saving the world. Price stole a potentially explosive list of double-agents from some foreign guy who wants it back and is trying to kidnap Nathan to use as a bargaining chip. But is Burton telling the truth, or does he have a hidden agenda? Nathan’s shrink — yeah, a 17-year-old kid with a shrink — Sigourney Weaver, to whom, in an early scene, he presciently reveals ‘I’m a stranger in my own life’ — who is actually yet another undercover agent, warns him that Burton can’t be trusted. But is she telling the truth?
To be honest, you probably won’t care whether she’s telling the truth or not. By the time that she dispenses this piece of information the plot has spectacularly imploded, leaving the audience with a choice of either disengaging its brain and allowing the nonsense to wash over it, or howling with derision at each new plot hole or stupid decision made by almost every character involved in this mess. Taylor Lautner, who presumably won this role on the back of his work on the Twilight movies, leaves us in no doubt that he lacks the charisma or acting skills to carry a movie; the poor kid has a face that simply refuses to form any kind of meaningful expression, and while teenage girls might go ga-ga over him, he’ll struggle to win roles once their fickle attention is distracted by the next new heartthrob. Old pros like Molina and Weaver know they’ve somehow ended up toiling in the swamps, but gamely manage to keep the distress from registering on their faces — although you can kind of imagine Weaver going home each evening and tearfully punching her pillows in the middle of the night.